When it comes to saving victims, the fire department relies on three pieces of equipment – the fire truck, the hose and the Jaws of Life. But did you know that the Jaws of life works off of a hydraulic system? Power Team SA, hydraulic professionals with decades of experience within the industry, knows the impact and usefulness of hydraulic power and understands the reason as to why such an important piece of rescue equipment would require hydraulics to do the job.
The Jaws of Life was first patented in 1961 after its creator, George Hurst, watched rescue teams take over an hour to free stock car drivers from their crashed vehicles. At this time, rescuers would use circular saws to cut open car frames. This saw had many disadvantages such as creating sparks that could increase the chance of a fire; took too long to create a safe opening to free the victim; and they caused a loud, unnecessary noise which added additional stress to the victim. It was due to these disadvantages, that hydraulic tools were turned to and hailed as the best option. They were quicker, quieter and didn’t cause any additional danger. In fact, the name Jaws of Life, the name Hurst’s gave his design, comes from the equipment’s ability to snatch victims from the jaws of death.
How does it work?
The Jaws of Life uses a piston system. A petrol or electrical power source pushes hydraulic fluid into the first piston, which then drives down the second piston. This applies quick pressure into the tool. The Jaws of Life can take only two minutes to remove a car roof, making extractions quick.
Since hydraulic equipment uses incompressible fluid, the Jaws of Life use phosphate ester fluid and not oil, as it is non-flammable and does not conduct electricity. The Jaws of Life need to ensure that it doesn’t contribute to the dangers of the environment with flammable liquid.
Hydraulic rescue tools
The Jaws of Life has four main hydraulic rescue tools – spreaders, cutters, rams and combination tools.
• Hydraulic spreaders are used for compressed car frames and other damaged and collapsed structures. They start in the closed position and then apply force outwards moving apart steel etc, with ease. This gives the victims space to be removed.
• Hydraulic cutters use a great amount of hydraulic pressure to cut through metals to remove damaged and dangerous obstructions, allowing an opening for firefighters to get the victims to safety.
• Hydraulic rams are used to dislodge parts of the wreckage. Rams are used to punch or ram sections of an accident that may be pinning down a victim and preventing the rescue.
• Combination tools allow firefighters to use one device to cut and spread damaged areas and help the victims. This can help save time and lessen the chances of harming a victim.
The Jaws of Life are very important within the firefighting industry, and by using hydraulic technology they are able to quickly, efficiently and safely extract victims from trapped situations.
Hydraulic equipment has been used throughout many decades as a way to help and support rescuers, and the Jaws of Life is just a single example. For all hydraulic needs, Power Team SA is on hand to offer expert opinion and solutions to all hydraulic queries