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_________________________________________ Midsouth Rescue Technologies

Side Impact Airbags

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Supplemental Restraint Systems
Introduction to Safety Restraint Systems
How Airbags Work
Driver's Frontal Airbags
Passenger's Frontal Airbags
Head Protection Airbags
Side Impact Airbags
Occupant Positioning Airbags
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Airbags and Airbag Inflators Involved in Fire
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Side Impact Airbags

This page includes:
  • Door mounted inflatable curtain
  • Door mounted airbags
  • Seat mounted airbags
  • Rear seat side impact protection

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Like the frontal airbags; side impact airbags must have a crash sensor to recognize that a crash has accured. These sensors are usually mounted in the frond door, the B post, or most are located  inside of the rocker panel just below the B post.

Also like the frontal sensors; these sensors must experience an impact from a certain direction to deploy an airbag. Each side is operated by its own sensor, the right side will not deploy if the vehicle is hit in the left side and the left side will not deploy if the vehicle is hit in the right side.

Many times, it is hard to answer questions as to why an airbag did or did not deploy. The signal from these sensors often times can be canceled by the occupant position or weight sensors if an infant or out of position passenger is detected. Other times these airbags are incorperated into a roll over protection system and may be deployed by recieving a signal from the roll over sensor.  

Due to the proximity of the occupant to the intruding force, side impact airbags deploy much faster than frontal airbags. 


Since the introdution of side impact airbags; a lot of manufacturers are offering at least six airbags in their vehicles as standard equipment and all manufacterers are at least offering them as options:

        The driver’s dual stage frontal airbag

        The passenger’s dual stage frontal airbag

        Both front seat or door mounted side impact airbags

        Both curtain airbags

With each side being controled seperatly and having to be impacted from a certain angle and the frontal airbags having to be impacted from the front, it is nearly imposible for all the airbags in one vehicle to be deployed in a single crash.

Warning! Recuers must remember!

They will always have some loaded airbags to deal with in every crash.


Door Mounted Airbags

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Door mounted airbags are usually a torso type airbag, used to protect the occupants abdomen and pelvic areas.

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Some are totally hidden and deploy through the trim panel itself.

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Others are easily seen as blowout panels.

Like other side impact airbags, these also use a stored gas inflator. Most all of these are mounted just to the rear of the center line of the door toward the nadir pin.

The deployment zone is from the center of the door to the center of the B post and five inches out from the door panel.

Warning! During rescue operations; if the bag is deployed it is safe to work around, again there are no dual stage airbags made but, if it is not deployed rescuers must stay out of the deployment zone.


Caution! If the door can be opened, even after the electrical system is shut down; rescuers should always tie the door open with a rope or strap to assure that it does not partially close again, putting them in the deployment zone. Never use a prop, these can be easily kicked out, or become a tripping hazard.

If the door is to be removed; always lay the door in the debris pile with the airbag pointing up. If an accidental deployment where to accrue the bag will deploy into the air rather than against the ground, causing the whole door to fly up. It is also a good idea to lay all loaded airbags in a separate area, away from all work areas. All airbags are subject to deploying from static electricity.


Door Mounted Inflatable Curtain

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Though mounted in the door these are actually a curtain type airbag that has recently been developed for use in convertibles. These bags deploy straight up from the top edge of the door panel and extend to about the roof level. Like all side impact airbags they have a small stored gas inflator mounted inside the door panel. Also like the others these only have a small emblem embedded in the trim indicating their location.


Warning! Rescuers must be aware that the later model convertibles are no different than hard tops when approaching them. Never lean over the door, these deploy upward with the same speed and force as the curtain airbags do with downward force.


Caution! Many rescuers have been taught to pinch the center of the door with the hydraulic spreaders to acquire a purchase point when popping a door. This is very dangerous on later model vehicles; because not only these, but all door mounted airbags have a stored gas inflator mounted behind the trim panel that can not be seen.


Seat Mounted Side Impact Airbags

There are two types of seat mounted airbags, the Torso type and the Head / Torso type. These are mounted in the edge of the back rest portion of the seat.

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The torso type extends outward from the seat about 12 inches and upward about 12 inches and are about 5 inches thick when deployed.


This type is also used as rear seat side impact airbags and some times extend outward 3 to 6 inches longer than when used in front seats.


This type is also the one used in conjunction with the tube type head protection system.

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The head / torso type extend outward about 12 to 14 inches and upward to about roof level and they are also about 5 inches thick when deployed.

Both of these use a stored gas inflator mounted inside the back rest.

Caution! Like the door mounted airbags, if these are deployed the rescuer can safely work around them, but if they are not deployed we must stay out of the deployment zone until the electrical system is shut down and the capacitor drain time has expired.

Warning! The main concern with both of these is in working from the door opening. If the door can be opened, rescuers must be aware that these airbags normally follow the door panel when deploying. With the door open they will deploy outward at a 45 degree angle to about were a rescuer would be standing. Both of these will deploy outward about 12 to 14 inches and the head / torso bag will extend upward about 18 inches. Rescuers must also remember that all side impact airbags deploy much faster than frontal airbags and with about the same force.

Video --- See why this is so vitally important

If possible, it is a good idea to do most of the patient care from the back seat area. This keeps the rescuer out of both the frontal and side impact deployment zones. If for some reason you must work from the door opening, it may be a good idea to tilt the back rest portion of the seat so that the B post gives you some protection from the seat mounted airbag.
Warning! Remember that if the seat mounted airbag is not deployed, there is likely a curtain airbag over your head, that is also not deployed.

Video --- Curtain airbag deployment

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Like the door mounted, some of these can be visually identified as a blowout panel in the outboard edge, of the back rest portion of the seat.

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Unlike the blowout panel, these are much harder to identify. The only way a rescuer can identify their presence is by a very small emblem embedded in the upholstery or a tag sewn in the seam, that may say Airbag, or SRS.

This type is also used for rear occupant side impact protection.

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