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6 tools for breaching auto glass

Safe, effective and efficient auto glass removal and management is only one aspect of vehicle extrication

Updated Jan. 20, 2017

Automakers use two types of glass: tempered and laminated. Tempered glass has commonly been used for the side and rear windows, while laminated glass was reserved for windshields.

Now, that’s all been thrown out the window, so to speak. In 2013, glass laminates were used for rear automobile windows in about 10 to 30 percent of all side windows. By 2018, federal regulations will require that all vehicle windows be laminated.

And that laminated auto glass on the rear and side windows may not just be “windshield glass.” Often, this laminated glass being used for non-windshield applications glass is stronger and more resistant to tearing and penetration than standard inter-layers used in windshields.

Forced entry

Laminated glass use in auto windshields was designed to better manage the glass during a vehicle crash. Why the terminology of managed glass? Because during a crash, the glass is going to stay in its place rather than breaking into large shards that can further injure the occupants.

Laminated side auto glass is also considered “managed glass.” The tempered glass used in side windows was a big improvement over plate glass — it breaks into much smaller, uniform pieces that present less of a laceration hazard to occupants.

However, those smaller chunks of tempered glass can become mini-missiles during a crash. Plus, those hundreds of chunks of broken tempered glass present a continuing hazard to both patients and rescuers during the extrication process.

Auto glass removal

The Glas-Master from Wehr Engineering is a new, manually operated glass removal tool that requires no electricity or hydraulics. It works on all types of auto glass and reduces the risk of trauma to the patient.

The Glas-Master incorporates four tools into its T-handle design: a spring punch, a tire valve stem puller, a striking tool and a prying tool.

The Quik Kut Glass Tool — which could be a sibling of the Glas-Master based on appearances — also features a retractable blade used to cut through windshields. The spring punch in its top handle is used to remove tempered glass. The back handle is notched to remove windows that are rolled down and hydraulic lifts on hatchbacks.

The Firemaxx combination tool from Fire Hooks Unlimited has a more conventional firefighter look — it looks like a rescue ax — and is a kind of Swiss Army knife of rescue tools with 14 tools in one: ax, hammer, spanner wrench, windshield cutter, rappelling ring, gas shut-off, water shut-off, battery disconnect, drywall cutter, forcible entry, hinge remover, pry bar, Stortz latch opener and hood remover.

Pneumatic powered

Some of the first vehicular rescue tools to find their way into the firefighter’s bag of tricks were pneumatically powered tools. Air chisels in particular quickly made the transition from auto body repair shops to motor vehicle crash scenes.

Turanair Systems’ T-Force 1000 Work Bottle is a portable, lightweight carbon-fiber, epoxy-wrapped bottle that holds up to 3,000 psi of compressed air. Its dual-stage regulator has a unique dial that allows you to adjust your desired setting from 5 psi to 200 psi. And you can wear it on your hip with its specially designed carrier for greater mobility around the crash scene.

The T-Force comes with a detachable coiled hose with a universal coupling that fits all pneumatic air tools and most air devices. Think air hammers when constructing wood shoring for tech rescue situations.

All Work Bottles and reserve tanks are approved by the U.S. Department of Transportation, Transport Canada and hydro-statically tested by the manufacturer.

Battery power

Rhyno’s Windshield Cutter is a battery-powered extrication tool that is easy to deploy with cutter blades that require very little clearance to effectively cut through the windshield, which increases the margin of safety for rescuers and patients alike.

The company also claims that its cutter keeps the majority of glass debris outside of the vehicle and minimizes airborne dust, something that also bodes well for both patients and rescuers.

One of the challenges of vehicle extrication is having the right tools for the job at the right time. The MV Crash Kit is designed to help make that possible by putting the most used vehicle extrication hand tools in one bag.

The kit is designed to be the “go bag” for the first responder who arrives at the rescue scene ahead of rescue apparatus. The contents enable the responder to begin stabilizing the vehicle and protecting the trapped occupant. It includes:

  • Fire-extrication blanket to cover and protect the patient during operations.
  • Hood release tool.
  • Battery cable cutter.
  • Hack saw and spare blades.
  • Heavy-duty spring window punch.
  • Seatbelt cutter.
  • ART glass removal tool.
  • 9.5-inch grip-lock pliers.
  • 8-inch adjustable wrench.
  • 12-inch pry bar.
  • Utility knife with spare blades.
  • Magnetic holder to place the kit on the vehicle.

Safe, effective and efficient auto glass removal and management is only one aspect of vehicle extrication, and it’s one that keeps evolving. As automobile manufacturers continue their quest for safer and more fuel-efficient vehicles, we in the fire and EMS world will continue to see new materials used in their work and new applications for older materials.

Battalion Chief Robert Avsec (ret.) served with the Chesterfield (Virginia) Fire & EMS Department for 26 years. He was an instructor for fire, EMS and hazardous materials courses at the local, state and federal levels, which included more than 10 years with the National Fire Academy. Chief Avsec earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Cincinnati and his master’s degree in executive fire service leadership from Grand Canyon University. He is a 2001 graduate of the National Fire Academy’s EFO Program. Beyond his writing for and, Avsec authors the blog Talking “Shop” 4 Fire & EMS and has published his first book, “Successful Transformational Change in a Fire and EMS Department: How a Focused Team Created a Revenue Recovery Program in Six Months – From Scratch.” Connect with Avsec on LinkedIn or via email.