Awareness of Airbag Locations

Photo Ron Moore
This wide shot of the interior of a Mercedes ML-320 shows both the driver's frontal airbag and the passenger's frontal airbag. In addition, the knee bag for the driver is obvious.

Photo Ron Moore
Close-up look at the knee airbag for the driver. This bag deploys along with the airbag in the steering wheel during frontal or off-angle front collisions.

Photo Ron Moore
Does this front door of the Mercedes have a side-impact airbag in it or not? If it were there, it would be above the armrest and towards the latch end of the door. Is it there, or not?

Photo Ron Moore
Here's the answer, all rolled up in one photo. There are 4 side impact airbags in this car to protect the torso area of the front and rear seat occupants. The front passengers have seat-mounted airbags. You can see the blow-out panel along the outer edge of the front seat. There are no airbags in the front doors. The rear passenger's torso is protected by door-mounted side-impact airbags. How's that for mixing things up a bit for us? Note the airbag ID; the marker that advertises the presence of an airbag on a car. So the ML-320 has 10 airbags; driver front, passenger front, driver knee bag, passenger knee bag, driver front seat airbag, passenger front seat airbag, rear passenger door airbags (2), and a roof-mounted side-impact airbag on each side of the car.

As you begin your fire service career, you'll learn about vehicle rescue during your probationary training as well as during continuing education drills that your new department conducts. As part of that training, you'll learn about how vehicle airbags influence what we find as fire and medical responders when called to a vehicle collision.

To better prepare yourself, take this challenge. Next time you're near a Mercedes new car dealership and you have some time, stop in and visit with the salesperson. Tell them you want to see their "top-of-the-line" vehicles so you can see all the safety features that it has. You are particularly interested in airbags although there are a lot of other safety systems and components that your vehicle rescue instructor will be telling you about. Let's stick with airbags for now.

Look to find the driver's front airbag and the passenger's front airbag. Both are mandatory in every vehicle now.

Next, begin looking for side impact airbags. These airbags can be found in the seats — particularly the front seats — the doors, and also along the roof rail above the doors.

After you've found them, look for "knee" bags. They will be located in blowout panels mounted into the front instrument panel. They deploy in a front collision and press the occupants back in their seats as the main frontal airbags deploy.

If the dealership has an M-class vehicle on the lot, something like an ML-320, you'll find a total of 10 airbags if you're a good enough researcher.

For further information on airbags and vehicle rescue practices and procedures, check out the archived University of Extrication articles, training programs, and downloads available through the website.

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