The Hurst tool is more commonly known by its nick name “Jaws of Life”. Back in the 1970’s A gentleman by the name of Mike Brick, who was employed by the Hurst Performance company to make the original Hydraulic Rescue tool (which was so large it had to be carried on the back of a tow truck) to developed a more user friendly hydraulic spreader, coined the phrase “Jaws of Life” after he observed people saying that their new device “snatched people from the jaws of death.” “Jaws of Life” is a now trademarked line of tools originally developed by Hurst Performance.
Before the invent of Hydraulic Rescue Tools, rescuers often used circular saws for vehicle extrication. There were several obvious drawbacks to this. Saws can conduct sparks, which could start a fire, create loud sounds, stress the victim(s), and often cut slowly. Another option was to try to pry open the vehicle doors with a crowbar or Halligan but this could compromise the stability of the vehicle, injure the victims further, or inadvertently trigger the airbags of the vehicle.
George Hurst, the father of the hydraulic rescue tool, invented the first Hurst Rescue Tool in the 1960’s. The Jaws of Life were first used in 1963 as a tool to free race car drivers from their vehicles after accidents and was introduced into the fire & rescue service in 1971.
There is opinion that Mike brick was the actual father of the hydraulic rescue too. Mike brick left the Hurst Performance company in 1982 and went on to start his own business further developing hydraulic rescue tools. He sold the business in 1982.
How They Work:
In a simple hydraulic system, when one piston is pushed down, another piston is pushed up.
The Jaws of Life equipment is some of the most unsophisticated hydraulic machinery, because there are very few parts involved in making the devices work. In the cutter and spreader, a portable engine pumps pressurized hydraulic fluid into the piston cylinder through one of two hose ports.
To open the arms of the spreader, the operator slides a valve switch that causes the hydraulic fluid to flow from one hose into the cylinder, pushing the piston and rod up. This rod is attached to linkages that are conjointly attached to the spreader’s arms. When the rod pushes up, it causes the linkages to rotate, which opens the arms. To close the arms, the operator moves the valve in the opposite direction, which causes the hydraulic fluid to flow through a second hose.
To give you an idea of the forces found in both the spreaders & cutters of the Hurst tool – The ML-32 Hurst Jaws of Life spreader (for example) provides:
•16,000 pounds (71 kiloNewtons) spreading force
•14,400 pounds (64 kN) pulling force
•32 inches (81.9 cm) opening distance
And the Hurst Jaws of Life ML-40 model provides:
•12,358 pounds (60 kN) cutting force at the blade center
•22,455 pounds (99.9 kN) cutting force at the notch
•4.25-inch (10.8-cm) cuts
It takes about two minutes to take the roof off a car.
Join me on an A to Z Journey of firefighting tools throughout the month of April. I appreciate feedback. Please keep in mind that I am not (nor do I pretend to be) a firefighter or a member, either volunteer or paid, of the fire service. My purpose here is to pass on knowledge that I find in hopes to both bring awareness to the fire-service and to help those in the profession do their job safer and better.