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‘Reading’ the Seatbelt Pretensioner



Vehicle rescue instructors should remind participants in your training classes, especially if they are EMS-oriented responders, about how they can ‘read’ a seatbelt pretensioner system and may be able to get a sort of second opinion about whether their patient was or was not wearing their seatbelt.

Our scenario is that the frontal airbags have deployed. An airbag spiderweb is evident on the passenger’s side of the windshield. As you get closer, we see no spider web on the windshield on the driver’s side; this is a good thing.

Now how can we ‘read’ the seatbelt pretensioner system to see who was or was not wearing their seatbelt? There is some evidence the pretensioner system may reveal that can help us verify what we find when we make patient contact.

A common design of seatbelt pretensioner is integrated into the take-up spool of the seatbelt recoiler.  With the trim removed, we can clearly see the actual pretensioner unit of this specific vehicle at the recoiler mounted to the base of this B-pillar.  Also note the familiar yellow color wiring sheath that is the most common color used by automakers to identify airbag and pretensioner wiring circuits.

As we look at the empty driver’s seat in our scenario, we can confirm that the driver occupant of this vehicle was wearing their seatbelt when the crash occurred. Why do we know this and how can the pretensioner system tell us?

Pretensioners mounted to the recoiler unit typically lock the recoiler so it will not retract after the pretensioner deploys. The slack in the belt as shown here, once it is unbuckled, is your clue that it deployed while being worn by the occupant. It will not retract due to the take-up recoiler locking so it had all kinds of slack in it when the driver took it off.

On the passenger side however, since this seatbelt was not bucked at the moment of the crash, you would see that it is now drawn tight along the inside of the B-pillar. Either no occupant was here or if there was a passenger, this occupant was unbelted at the time of the collision.

‘Reading’ a seatbelt pretensioner system might just be a good “second opinion” for you to note when you are assessing mechanism of injury for your patients.  My experience has been that the intoxicated patients tell you they were always wearing their seatbelt.  With pretensioners, you’ve got something else to help you assess if they are telling you the truth or stretching their law-abiding status a bit.

Courtesy of Rob Moore from University of Extrication

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School Bus

HydroFusion Ram

HydraFusion Struts used as ram for a dash roll?



HydraFusion Strut Ram

The HydraFusion Struts were a game changer when PARATECH released the lifting/stabilizing device a few years back at FDIC. Rescuers can lift up to 10 U.S. Tons (9 metric tons) and to stabilize up to 20,000 lbs. with the tool. However, PARATECH’s HydraFusion Struts are not limited to just those two functions. The HydraFusion Struts can move metal!

I first ran across pictures of HydraFusion Struts used as ram from pictures that Brock Archer (Advanced Extrication) and Randy Schmitz ( Founder/Owner of Schmitz Mittz). Last weekend at Crunchtime Extrication, Paratech had one of their trailers at the training event and I had the chance to try a dash roll with a HydraFusion Strut. Take a look at the video below.

A few quick points:

  • You can put the HydraFusion Strut in place to reduce any dash movement during reliefs cuts.
  • HydraFusion Strut are portable and can be moved quickly to a vehicle hundreds of feet of the roadway.
  • Depending on the length of the HydraFusion Strut used, strut extensions can be used to optimize dash movement.
  • Using a HydraFusion Strut as a ram is an option, not always the option.
Below  are a few pictures from the Advanced Heavy Rescue Symposium in Calgary, Alberta, that show HydraFusion Struts used a ram during bus extrication to displace a roof.

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Rope Rescue

Hunter/Tree Climber Rescue

Hunting season is right around the corner in most parts of the United States. Have you trained on rescuing a stranded hunter hanging in their harness after a fall?



Tree Climber Rescue

Checkout the two videos below with some great game plans and tips on rescuing someone out of a tree or hanging in a harness after falling out of a hunting blind.

Harness Induced Pathology is a silent killer in High Angle Rope Rescue, it can also be known as Harness hanging syndrome, Suspension Trauma, Suspension Induced Shock, and Etc.

Skeletal-muscle pump

Did you know that your muscle help pump the blood thru your body? The skeletal-muscle pump is a collection of skeletal muscles that aid the heart in the circulation of blood. It is especially important in increasing venous return to the heart, but may also play a role in arterial blood flow.

Reference material:

Below is a PowerPoint on the effects of falling.

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Outboard Motor Information

The Pennsylvania Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Team shared the video below on their Facebook page of useful information on outboard motor.



Outboard Motor

The Pennsylvania Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Team shared the video below on their Facebook page of useful information on outboard motor.

The Pennsylvania Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Team has a great Standard Operating Guidelines and Training Manual.

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