July 25, 2004 · Photos by Fritz Rethage
[HHFD Index] ·
2004 Photos 2002
HHFD Heavy Rescue
"Jaws of Life"
emergencies, when a few wasted seconds can cost lives, the "Jaws
of Life" are brought in to pry open accident vehicles
and allow rescue workers to remove trapped victims from the wreckage.
We often read about rescues that used the "Jaws of Life".
What is it? How does it work?
"Jaws of Life" is not "a" tool -- but refers
to several types of piston-rod hydraulic tools known as cutters, spreaders
and rams, which are used by trained rescuers working as a team.
The spreader is used to pull pieces of the structure apart, or it
can be inserted into the side of the vehicle to tear a section out.
The cutter is used to cut through the vehicle like a pair of giant
bolt cutters. Some "Jaws of Life" equipment combine the
cutter and spreader into one machine.
The ram's function is to push apart sections of the car (or other
structure). For instance, a rescue worker can place a ram on the door
frame and extend the piston to push the dashboard up, creating enough
space to free a crash victim.
A typical "Jaws of Life" machine uses about 1 quart of hydraulic
fluid. A portable engine pumps pressurized hydraulic fluid into the
piston cylinder through one of two hose ports. An operator switch
controls which port the fluid enters through. If it enters one port,
the fluid forces the rod up and opens the arms of the spreader or
blades of the cutter. The operator can then toggle the switch and
cause the rod to retract, closing the arms or blades
The "Jaws of Life" is actually a brand of tools that is
trademarked by the Hurst Jaws of Life company, but the name is often
used when talking about other brands of rescue systems.
"Jaws of Life" Department Training
Under a blazing hot (85 degrees) Sunday afternoon, July 11, 2004,
the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department conducted "Jaws of Life"
training at the DPW yard near the airport. Two donated vehicles
were used in the exercise that practiced the basic techniques that
are regularly used by the department.
The hands-on exercise began with an overview of the equipment. The
crushed blue car was stabilized, each door was removed, glass was
removed, the roof was removed, the car's frame was broken and spread
and the hood was opened. The yellow truck with a "brave
volunteer victim" inside, had the doors removed, glass removed,
roof removed and the victim removed and readied for transport.
Training emphasized the safety and treatment of victims during rescue
operations. Also discussed were the hazards of: un-deployed air bags,
seat belts, hybrid electric cars, etc. The immediate solutions
for ruptured gas tanks was to apply absorbent material for small spills,
and apply a layer of foam for larger spills. Senior department
members were able to share with the newer members, many practical
rescue techniques and tips that they had learned from their experiences.
Transportation and disposition of the vehicles was donated by Lenox
Towing. The HHFD welcomes tax deductible vehicle donations for
HHFD rescuing 12 year old trapped under car Dec. 13, 2000