Crashes for Optimizing Tactical Procedures of Fire Departments in the Event of Serious Accidents

Crashes for Optimizing Tactical Procedures of Fire Departments in the Event of Serious Accidents

Feb 2017

Passenger car safety has made enormous progress in recent years. Optimizations and developments in the area of occupant protection have contributed significantly to the considerable reduction of the risk of injury and death. With today’s modern cars, it is usually only in the case of very serious accidents that doors get jammed or occupants are trapped inside the vehicle. The use of high-strength steels, for example, confronts fire departments with new challenges. Training in realistic conditions is also difficult because the vehicles available are usually old junk cars that are not equipped with the corresponding reinforcements. Furthermore, the training vehicles are generally undamaged or only slightly damaged, which can lead to relevant differences when compared to rescue operations. Tactical procedures must therefore be adapted accordingly, and the officers require additional training.

The fact is that current conventional tools used by fire departments, such as hydraulic spreaders, cutters or telescopic rescue rams, are sufficient for performing quick and effective rescue operations on modern vehicles. However, fire departments use numerous methods, some of which differ considerably. Corresponding differences arise with regard to the times necessary to perform a rescue operation as well as the stress that the occupants to be rescued experience during a rescue operation.

To indicate approaches for optimizing the fire departments’ own tactical procedures, DEKRA, the Institut für Verkehrsunfallforschung (Institute of traffic accident research) at Georg-August University Göttingen and Weber Rescue Systems are currently preparing a joint study. For this, various rescue methods were tested on modern vehicles with identical deformations together with an emergency doctor and experienced firefighters at the DEKRA Crash Test Center in Neumünster.

When the vehicles were selected, it was ensured that they are still found frequently on European roads today, display a high level of safety and have a modern vehicle structure. The choice was made in favor of the first generation Ford Focus Turnier (beginning with 1999). It achieved four stars in the Euro NCAP test after it was introduced on the market. Thirty vehicles of this type were purchased from the used car market. Based on analyses conducted by DEKRA Accident Research and experience from the Crash Test Center, an impact scenario was selected in which the rescue dummy is trapped both in the foot/leg area and in the hip/abdominal area. It was also ensured that the resulting damage scenario does not necessarily lead to the occupants’ death. The prerequisite for this scenario was a penetration of the instrument panel by between 20 and 30 cm, which was achieved with an impact speed of 85 km/h with only partial overlap.

The result: All rescue methods – large side opening, quick rescue via the driver door with a rescue boa, tunneling through the trunk, removal of the roof as per the Hamburg model and chain hoist – are suited for rescuing trapped occupants in a safe and non-harmful way. The times recorded in Neumünster were between 11 and just under 20 minutes.

The findings and experiences gained are currently being analyzed in detail. Plans have also been made to conduct further tests with new vehicles to validate the results. The material will then be published to make it accessible to fire departments.