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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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Picket Anchor System, Rope Rescue

Pickets have many different uses in the rescue side of the fire service.



Picket Anchor Systems

Pickets have many different uses in the rescue side of the fire service. Below are the basics of pickets used as anchor for rope rescue.

  • Pickets are typically made of 1″ diameter rolled steel that is 4′ long.
  • The pickets should be driven 2′-3′ into the soil (2′ in stable soil and up to 3′ in unstable soil) at a 15 degree angle away from the planned load.

When connecting the pickets, use a 20′ piece of webbing or 1/2″ utility rope.  Connect the base of the read picket with a clove hitch and wrap the webbing or rope to the top of the forward picket up to 6 times (finish with another clove hitch).  Use a piece of wood or rebar or another picket inserted between the wrap to twist the pickets.  Tension until the forward picket starts to move, then back off one half turn and drive stake into the ground.

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Rescue Products

Large Animal Rescue

Large Animal Rescue can happen anywhere. Police horses are commonly used all over the United States for many different events.



Large Animal Rescue

Many departments may believe that their response areas are not rural so a Large Animal Rescue (LAR) call may never happen.  However, large animals are transported throughout the country in urban, suburban, and rural areas. This doesn’t mean that every department needs to run out purchase all the LAR equipment and send all their personnel tech training.  It means you should have an awareness level of large animals, the trailers they are transported in, and the equipment used in LAR.

Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue (TLAER TM)

Below is the mission statement of the Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue:
TLAER, Inc. works to provide education and outreach nationwide and internationally for emergency responders (whether local, state or organizational) in safer and more efficient ways to prevent prepare and respond to large animal incidents on our highways, communities and facilities, based on cutting-edge research and development.

TLAER courses are offered at the Awareness level (interested personnel from all organizations and response levels,) Operations level (hands-on, intense training events with live horses intended for live responders,) and Technician level (for USAR teams only.)

Rescue Systems



LAR News Articles

Updated LAR Rescue:

The Facebook post below is from a Large Animal Rescue where the hind leg of the horse was stuck in a hole.

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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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