Hydraulic Rescue Tools

filed under | technology | accident


Hydraulic rescue tools are used by emergency rescue personnel to assist vehicle extrication of crash victims, as well as other rescues from small spaces. These tools include cutters, spreaders, and rams. They are popularly referred to in the United States, Canada and Australia as "Jaws of Life", a trademark of Hurst Performance Inc. The Jaws of Life was first used in 1963 as a tool to free race car drivers from their vehicles after accidents. Hydraulic rescue tools are powered by a hydraulic pump, which can be hand-, foot-, or engine-powered, or even built into the tool itself. These tools may be either single-acting, where hydraulic pressure will only move the cylinder in one direction, and the return to starting position is accomplished using a pressure-relief valve and spring setup, or dual-acting, in which hydraulic pressure is used to both open and close the hydraulic cylinder. Previously rescuers often used circular saws for vehicle extrication, but these suffered from several drawbacks. Saws can generate sparks, which could start a fire, create loud noise, which could stress the victim, and are often slow cutting. Alternatively, rescuers could try to pry open the vehicle doors using a crowbar or halligan bar, but this could compromise the stability of the vehicle, further injure the victims, or unintentionally activate vehicle airbags. In comparison, hydraulic spreader-cutters are quieter, faster, and more versatile: they can cut, open, and even lift a car. The tools operate on the basis of hydraulic fluid pressure of up to 720 bar, which must be provided from a power source. At present, there are 3 different means of generating the pressure. The most commonly used source is a separate power unit, which is a small petrol (gasoline) engine connected to a hydraulic pump. The hydraulic fluid is pressurised in the pump, and conveyed in a hose under pressure to the tool. Alternative power sources are a small electrical pump in the tool powered by a heavy duty rechargeable battery, and a hand- or foot-operated pump also connected to the tool directly. These are useful for lighter-duty use and do not require the storage space taken up by the separate power unit and associated lengths of hose. [READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE]

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