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Jaws of Life, Other Types of Hydraulic Rescue Tools & Their Uses

Revised: 7/31/19
Grainger Editorial Staff

If you are an emergency responder, you have probably seen a variety of hydraulic rescue tools in action. It may have been at the scene of a car accident, or maybe at an emergency in a building site. These powerful tools were designed for strength and reliability in almost any emergency situation. Having the right rescue toolscould be the difference that saves a life.

Hydraulic Rescuers for Every Emergency

What Is a Hydraulic Rescue Tool?

Sometimes you need a lot of power to get a job done. This is definitely true for tools that need to cut, bend, or snap steel and other metals. Fire departments and other organizations frequently need to do just that—cut and bend heavy metals—in their life-saving duties. When they come across these situations, they need hydraulic rescue tools that can offer power and that is also easy to use.

How do hydraulic rescue tools work?

Hydraulic rescue tools can cut, pinch, spread and ram. These tools use the power of hydraulics, the compression of liquids, to generate the power they need to get through the toughest materials. These tools replace less efficient methods, such as using a circular saw, which may take too long to operate or cause additional safety concerns. For example, using a saw to cut metal may cause flying sparks— something you might like to avoid at the scene of a car accident where there may be exposed fuel or fumes.

When people think about hydraulic rescue tools, they typically picture the Jaws of Life®. Jaws of Life is actually a brand of rescue tools trademarked by the Hurst Performance company. Hurst was the first to develop and market these hydraulic rescue tools. Nowadays, there are several companies who offer these life-saving machines.

What are Hydraulic Rescue Tools Used For?

Hydraulic rescue tools are commonly used after a vehicle accident. In certain kinds of car accidents, the vehicle is damaged in such a way that one or more people are trapped inside. This could put them in further danger due to the presence of gas and the possibility of a fire or explosion. The person inside the trapped car may need immediate medical attention. Perhaps a piece of the vehicle is pressing or pinning their body. It’s even possible that the car needs to be lifted off them completely. In any of these cases, a fast extrication (that is, getting the trapped person out of the car) is essential. These are the types of scenarios where a hydraulic rescue tool comes into play. These tools free trapped persons by either cutting, spreading or pinching. There are also hydraulic rams.

What is a hydraulic cutter?

Hydraulic cutters are the biggest, meanest, sharpest pair of shears you have even seen. They have metal blades (often made of hard steel) that can cut through even the most difficult metals. The hydraulic power that operates them puts forth an amazing amount of pressure, so they can chomp away at anything they’re applied to. They open to varying degrees depending on the size and model.

What is a hydraulic spreader?

Sometimes cutting isn’t the fastest or easiest way to get the job done. Frequently in these cases, emergency personnel use a spreader. A hydraulic spreader looks like two large metal fingers pressed together. They come together into a narrow tip at the end that can be inserted into narrow spaces. The tool then uses hydraulic power to spread the fingers, pushing apart the metal panels. These are frequently used to pop a whole door off of a vehicle. They are also used to lift (the same way a jack would) or spread apart other wedged metals.

What is a hydraulic ram?

Spreaders, of course, can only separate as wide as the spreader mouth is designed to open. In some cases, firefighters or other rescuers will need to push something apart further than the spreader can offer. This is when they might use a ram. An example is when a dashboard of a car is pressing down on a victim’s body. The hydraulic ram is inserted between the dash and the floor and opens the space up enough for a person to be freed.

What are hydraulic multi-tools?

Many companies that manufacture rescue tools offer a hydraulic multi-tool—one tool that can perform more than just one function. This is most commonly a spreader/cutter combination. These tools are perfect for spreading seams to better expose the metal that needs to be cut.

A Must for Emergency Workers

It’s not every day that a person needs to be rescued from a wrecked car, a fallen elevator or other emergency scenarios. However, on those occasions, there is no substitute for a hydraulic rescue tool that works fast, safely and efficiently. Hydraulic tools offer the power needed to contend with vehicles that are continually being manufactured to be stronger. These tools could offer the power and performance needed to save a life.



Fire Apparatus Magazine

City of Bloomington, Minnesota

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Please Note:
The product statements contained herein are intended for informational purposes only and is based on information available as of the initial date of publication. No representation is made that the information or references are complete or remain current. The information provided herein does not replace the use by you of any manufacturer instructions or technical product manual. W. W. Grainger, Inc. does not guarantee the result of product operation or assume any liability for personal injury or property damage resulting from the user’s reference to any product instructions.

The information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only and is based on information available as of the initial date of publication. No representation is made that the information or references are complete or remain current. This article is not a substitute for review of current applicable government regulations, industry standards, or other standards specific to your business and/or activities and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion. Readers with specific questions should refer to the applicable standards or consult with an attorney.


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