National Fire Fighter Near-Miss Reporting System: Supplemental Restraint Systems, Air Bags

The advent of the supplemental restraint system (SRS) in vehicles is the latest technology for passenger safety. When used in concert with passenger restraint systems, passenger survival has dramatically improved since the 1980s. The movement to occupant safety has its founding in Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company’s introduction of the laminated windshield in 1928. As that first generation of windshield was improved through the years, additional improvements in passenger safety were introduced. Those passenger protections, lap belts, lap and shoulder belts, side and front impact resistance panels, crumple zones, and SRS units have created unintended hazards for emergency service workers. This week’s featured firefighter near-miss report provides us with another reminder of the need to be on top of the latest vehicle technology and the effect it can have on us.

“We were dispatched to a report of a two car motor vehicle accident with injuries and entrapment. Upon our arrival, we found one vehicle on its side with one female patient that was entrapped. EMS arrived shortly after us and took over patient care while we began extraction. Our crew stabilized the vehicle and then removed the front and rear glass. We then used our hydraulic cutter and cut the A, B, and C posts, we also made cut on the top of the car. After the extrication was complete and the patient transported, we were looking over the car and discovered that we nearly cut through an air bag cylinder”

The early SRSs were confined to driver protection. Today’s SRS, called “advanced”, now include side impact and curtain systems. These systems include multiple modules and canisters positioned throughout the vehicle to activate the systems. The canisters are often found in the roof posts. Once you have read the entire account (, discuss the following with your colleagues:

  1. How familiar would you consider yourself with today’s SRS components?
  2. During your last response to a vehicle collision, what steps were taken to ensure the SRS was disconnected?
  3. Have you responded to a vehicle collision where the SRS only partially activated? If yes, go to our Facebook page and share the details.
  4. If you answered yes to #3, what did you do to neutralize the rest of the system?
  5. What is the prevalent SRS you are encountering today?

SRS units have back up power supplies that can range from one second to ten minutes. Every make and model on the road today can present unique hazards. The best way for you to avoid being victimized by a safety device is to follow best practices for identifying SRS equipped vehicles, revealing module storage locations, and assigning a safety officer to provide an additional level of oversight at your next vehicle collision.

Have you experienced a near miss involving a SRS equipped vehicle? Submit your report to today so everyone goes home tomorrow. For more on the benefits of firefighter near-miss reporting, CLICK HERE.

Note: The questions posed by the reviewers are designed to generate discussion and thought in the name of promoting firefighter safety. They are not intended to pass judgment on the actions and performance of individuals in the reports.

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