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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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Blue Collar Training Network

Great content and cutting edge training scenarios!



Blue Collar Training Network

If you are not following the Blue Collar Training Network on Facebook you are missing out on great content and cutting edge training scenarios.   Take a look at the post below and other pictures that one of their instructors, Andrew Hale, posted on Facebook.  Here’s another method to capture the suspension of a vehicle involved in an under-ride crash.


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Heavy Rescue

VA Spring Rescue Week



I ran across some great pictures on the Big Vehicle Rescue Facebook Page from a training course. The 2019 Virginia Department of Fire Programs Spring Rescue Week was held at the VA Public Safety Training Center. Below are pictures from the vehicle rescue technician class. Thanks again to
John Burruss for allowing us to use his pictures. Make sure you follow his page!

Stabilization, Lifting, and Vehicle Relocation

The bus was captured with struts for stabilization. The black guard rails on school buses are strong points for struts tips for stabilization and lifting.

The bus was rolled off the car with two griphoists anchored to the duals on a semi-tractor while the Paratech gold struts chased the movement automatically with air extended the struts.

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Northern Ohio FOOLS 14th annual Heavy Rescue 101

The Northern Ohio FOOLS hosted their 14th annual Heavy Rescue 101 this last weekend. This free event was full just 2-hours after the tickets were released online.



Northern Ohio FOOLS

The Northern Ohio FOOLS hosted their 14th annual Heavy Rescue 101 this last weekend. This free event was full just 2-hours after the tickets were released online. Volunteers, tool vendors, sponsors, and of course the students started to converge on the Huron County Fair grounds Friday evening for 3 presentations in a classroom setting.

Saturday morning the HOT part of this course started and students selected two different course tracks, basic or advanced. The basic class covered standard techniques common taught and used by rescuers around the world.

The advanced track was broken up into 5 different pits that covered side impacts, alternative methods, inverted vehicles, limited access crashes, and incidents involing a commerical truck.

Side Impacts

Alternative methods

The alternative methods station does not give hydraulic or electric cutters, spreaders, rams as tool options. It makes people think and use many tools that the vast majority of today’s firefighters are not familiar with operating. It shows that extrication work can be done without cutters and spreaders. It also demonstrates options that can be used in conjunction with extrication tools during complex extrications or limited extrication tool availability.

The pictures below is the “Batwing” at taught by by Steve Johnson, Mikey Torres, and Ron Whitaker

Inverted Vehicles (Cracking the egg)

Limited Access

The Alternative methods and Limited Access Pits were taught from a great group of brothers from First In-Last Out Fire Equipment & Training LLC.

Incidents involving a commercial trucks

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