Ms. Fiona Murphy
New Product Development Manager
L.M. INNOV8s 4-7 Steeple Industrial Estate
Antrim, County Antrim
N. Ireland, BT41 1AB
Dear Ms. Murphy:
This responds to your letter asking about the applicability of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 217, Bus Emergency Exits and Window Retention and Release, to your product, the Firefly, which you describe as an emergency window breaker device for buses and coaches.
By way of background, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is authorized under the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act (49 U.S.C. Chapter 301, Safety Act) to issue and enforce safety standards applicable to new motor vehicles and items of motor vehicle equipment manufactured for sale, sold, offered for sale or imported into the United States of America. Unlike the case in many countries, NHTSA does not approve motor vehicles or motor vehicle equipment, nor do we endorse any commercial products. Thus, manufacturers are required to certify that their vehicles and equipment meet all applicable standards. Under the Safety Act, manufacturers also must ensure that their products are free from safety-related defects.
Your letter asks whether your emergency window breaker device meets FMVSS No. 217. Information attached to your letter describes the Firefly, as the only product in the world specifically designed to work on double glazing and it also breaks single glazing and as an alternative to emergency hammers. The Firefly can be retrofitted to windows by permanently fixing into position with an industrial strength adhesive. Graphics you provide show the Firefly placed on the upper left hand corner of a window. The Firefly is operated by pulling down on a cover, exposing a red button. Pushing the exposed red button breaks the glass. Your letter does not explain how the glass is broken.
With this background, I will now address your questions. I am enclosing a copy of FMVSS
No. 217 so that you can better understand our answers.
Question One: You ask whether FMVSS No. 217s window retention requirements restrict the types of glass that can be fitted in buses and coaches.
FMVSS No. 205, Glazing Materials, specifies requirements for glazing material used in all motor vehicles (including buses). The regulation allows laminated, tempered, multiple glazed and rigid plastic materials to be used in bus passenger side windows. The window retention test requirement of FMVSS No. 217 ensures that the glazing and bonding material used in the exit have minimum retention capabilities.
Question Two: Your second question asks whether the emergency exit window must be an open able window, or whether an emergency hammer can be fitted in the vehicle to be used to break the designated emergency exit window on the bus/coach.
The exit must be capable of being opened without an emergency hammer.
FMVSS No. 217 establishes operating forces, opening dimensions, and markings for bus emergency exits, (including emergency exit windows) to provide a means of readily accessible emergency egress. The standard specifies how many and what type of emergency exits must be provided at a minimum, where the exits must be located, and how they must be configured, opened, and identified to occupants.
For buses other than school buses, S5.3.1 states that each emergency exit shall be releasable by operating one or two mechanisms located within certain regions specified in the standard. S5.3.2 requires that each emergency exit shall allow manual release of the exit using certain force applications. S5.3.2 further states
Each exit shall have not more than two release mechanisms. In the case of exits with one release mechanism, the mechanism shall require two force applications to release the exit. In the case of exits with two release mechanisms, each mechanism shall require one force application to release the exit. At least one of the force applications for each exit shall differ from the direction of the initial motion to open the exit by not less than 90 degrees and no more than 180 degrees.
As you can see from these requirements, FMVSS No. 217 requires emergency exit windows to be releasable by release mechanisms. An emergency hammer is not considered a release mechanism of the exit. Among other concerns, the hammer might not be present when the occupant has to release the emergency exit, and the force needed to hammer open an exit might be excessive for some occupants.
With regard to the Firefly, it does not appear that a bus with the Firefly would meet FMVSS
No. 217 requirements. Even if we were to consider the Fireflys breaking of the glass as releasing the exit and the red button as the release mechanism, it appears that the number and type of force applications needed to release the emergency exit do not meet the standards requirements. Your website www.fireflysafety.com (Frequently Asked Questions) indicates that a pin must be removed from the red button to trigger the Firefly. FMVSS No. 217 does not permit complex motions to activate a release mechanism, such as those involved in removing a pin. We also note that a companion requirement in FMVSS No. 217 that applies to school buses
(see S126.96.36.199) states: Each release mechanism shall operate without the use of remote controls or tools. We would consider a pin to be a tool, and a release mechanism that is dependent on the removal of the pin would not meet S188.8.131.52.
Even if a pin were not part of the design, the mechanism must have two force applications to release the exit. The Firefly does not appear to meet this requirement.
In addition, an emergency exit must be operable for the life of a vehicle. Your website indicates that the Firefly breaks the window glazing by way of an armed firing mechanism that has a life of about ten years. Our understanding is that buses in the U.S. can have a service life of 20 years or longer. An emergency exit that was only operable for some portion of the on-the-road life of the vehicle would raise safety concerns.
If you have any further questions, please contact Dorothy Nakama at this address or at (202) 366-2992.
O. Kevin Vincent