Rescue power tools are almost all hydraulically powered. Pressure is generated by a small gasoline-powered hydraulic pump (above left in the picture). This unit is a fairly new development in that it can be carried by one person; previous models took at least two people. This could present difficulties when clambering over difficult terrain such as a ravine or a collapsed building, besides diverting more manpower from other duties.
The tools themselves are connected via lengths of high-pressure hose to the pump when they need to be deployed. These hoses connect with “snap fittings”. When the tools are not in use, the two loose ends of their hoses are snapped together to keep dirt out.
The “Hurst Tool” is more popularly referred to as the “jaws of life”. There are a number of models available that are designed to “spread” or “cut” or both.
Hurst Spreading Tool
This is the “spreader” tool, most frequently used for prying apart crushed sections of vehicles in order to be able to extricate the injured.
Hurst Cutting Tool
This is the latest “cutting” tool – capable of slicing through even the toughest steels in today’s car-bodies.
Some recent models of SUV’s have extremely strong metals in their “A” pillars (sides of windshield) to protect occupants in case of a roll-over. However, these same pillars must occasionally be cut in order to be able to remove occupants from a collapsed or compressed vehicle.
Eye protection is critical when using this tool.
Hurst Telescopic Ram
Another type of tool is the “telescopic ram” – primarily used for displacing dashboards or steering columns, or shoring up collapsed structures. Being telescopic, it can exert tremendous force over a greater span than the “spreader” pictured above. The department has rams in two sizes – this is the larger one.
Not all tools are power operated. Sometimes the simplest ones can be the most vital. The Rescue unit is also equipped with a set of four high-strength aluminum stabilization struts. These are telescopic but locked in place with pins. The foot-end has a hinged plate to allow it to adapt to the surface slope, while the head end can be reversed to present different surfaces to whatever is being stabilized. In one configuration, the head is made so that it will partially penetrate and bite into the body of a vehicle so that it won’t slip.
The stabilization struts are made of aluminum to keep them light and portable – but are made of a special high-strength alloy that allows them to safely support many tons.
Struts can be used singly to stabilize and prevent tipping or roll-over of an unstable vehicle or structure. Or they can be used in groups together such as in a pyramid or to stabilize a vehicle that may roll either one way or the other. In this case their legs may be connected at the base with high-strength webbing straps so that the legs do not “splay”.