By Alan M. Petrillo
Most fire departments around the country respond to vehicle crash calls where occupants often need to be extricated using hydraulic rescue tools.
While human-powered tools are available on rescues, trucks, and pumpers, it’s most often the hosed hydraulic and battery-operated tools that are used to perform the extraction. In response to vehicles made with higher strength materials, and with an aim toward making rescue tools more ergonomic and easier to use, hydraulic tool manufacturers have come up with new and improved designs to aid firefighters.
|1 The Hurst Jaws of Life Generation 2 eDRAULIC SP310E2 spreader, left, and S700E2 cutter use improved battery technology that gets 40 percent more amp hours than previously from the same size battery. (Photo courtesy of Hurst Jaws of Life.)|
Power, Speed, and Weight
Chris Jaques, president of IDEX Rescue, says that most of the innovation for Hurst Jaws of Life hydraulic rescue tools has been driven by the need for power and speed. “Cars have challenged the tools of 20 years ago, so we have to stay ahead of them, which means the power to cut and spread the latest in high-strength steels,” Jaques says. “In terms of speed, it’s how fast the tool runs but also with our eDRAULIC battery-operated hydraulic tools how fast they can be deployed.”
The preference for hosed or battery-operated hydraulic rescue tools is dependent on the fire department, Jacques says. “Some very traditional departments are very happy with hose-bound tools, while others prefer to use battery-operated tools. However, the trend is toward the battery-operated tools.”
|2 The S700E2 cutter made by Hurst Jaws of Life weighs 48.1 pounds, is 36.2 inches long, and is 11.7 inches wide. (Photo courtesy of Hurst Jaws of Life.)|
The most popular grouping of hydraulic tools is a cutter, spreader, and ram, Jacques points out, although if budget is an issue, a department might choose a combi tool to get started and then add other tools as budgeting permits.
Hurst is launching two new spreader tools, Jaques says, the SP333, a 24-inch spreader, and the SP555, a 28-inch model. These complement the company’s eDRAULIC line of the SP310E2 spreader; the S700E2 and S311E2 cutters; the SC357E2 and SC250E2 combi tools; and the newly released StrongArm™, a tool designed with interchangeable tips for tactical rescue, breaching, or rapid intervention.
Fran Dunigan, marketing manager for Holmatro Inc., says his company’s biggest innovations recently have been in its spreaders, “where we have drastically cut the weight of our entire line of spreaders, developing a new 5000 series.” Dunigan points out that Holmatro is reducing the weight of its cutter line too, “with a more efficient application of power, greater ergonomics, and less weight.”
|3 The R421E2 ram is part of the Hurst Jaws of Life Generation 2 eDraulic line. The ram has sharp claws at both ends and can be rotated 360 degrees. (Photo courtesy of Hurst Jaws of Life.)|
Holmatro’s CU 5050 and CU 5050i are new car technology (NCT) cutters, Dunigan says, offering optimal cutting performance on modern vehicles through use of NCT blades that are U-shaped to surround wide pillars and to pull the material into the cutting recess, close to the central bolt where it is cut at the tool’s strongest point. “We’ve also further optimized the cutting edge of our NCT blades for longer blade life and best possible performance,” Dunigan says.
Dunigan notes that Holmatro also has introduced its Inclined Cutter, which puts the cutting blades at a 30-degree offset to the center line of the tool. “The offset allows the tool to be positioned lower on the A post and keeps the tool angled out toward the rescue worker but still cuts with the same amount of force,” he says. “The tool is available in our traditional CORE™ Technology and as a Greenline EVO self-contained rescue tool with an onboard power unit and battery-powered hydraulic pump.”
|4 A firefighter uses a Holmatro CU5050i cutter with a new car technology (NCT) blade to cut a vehicle’s A post. (Photo courtesy of Holmatro Inc.)|
Chuck Sheaffer, sales manager for Amkus Rescue Systems, which was bought by Task Force Tips earlier this year, says firefighters can expect changes to the existing Amkus line of hydraulic rescue tools some time later in the summer. Current Amkus offerings include the AMK-24 and AMK-30CRT spreaders, the AMK-22 and AMK-21A cutters, the AMK-25C combination tool, and four sizes of rams.
“We also are working on developing newer model hydraulic tools as well,” Sheaffer says. “We currently are working on battery-operated hydraulic powered tools, including a full line of cutters, spreaders, telescopic rams, and combi tools that are lighter in weight compared to other models.”
|5 Holmatro makes an Inclined Cutter that puts the cutting blades at a 30-degree offset to the center line of the tool, allowing it to be positioned lower on a car’s A post. (Photo courtesy of Holmatro Inc.)|
Dunigan says that Holmatro’s Greenline battery-powered hydraulic tools have been made faster across all models through a change to a hydraulic pump with larger pistons. “They provide 33 percent more flow in the first stage, and when the tool meets resistance the pump gears down to provide more pressure but still gives 14 percent more flow, which is what gives power to the tool.” He adds that both the EVO and CORE technologies use the same front ends, “the moving, opening, closing blades and arms, and the cylinder that moves them,” which allows upgrade modules to convert CORE tools to EVO battery-operated tools.
Jaques points out that when Hurst’s first-generation eDRAULIC tools were introduced, they were as strong as the company’s hosed hydraulic rescue tools and ran off lithium ion batteries that allowed about 15 minutes of nonstop operation. “With our Generation 2 eDRAULIC tools, we’ve taken the approach of more power and speed, and because battery technology got better, we get 40 percent more amp hours from the same size battery-which gives a user two-car use-and were able to have a 10 percent reduction in weight.”
|6 Amkus Rescue Systems makes the AMK-30CRT spreader, shown here lifting the dashboard on a crashed vehicle. (Photo courtesy of Amkus Rescue Systems.)|
Sheaffer estimates that the new Amkus line of battery-operated tools “should be out in the early fall, and the battery life will be about twice the operating time of current units.” He notes that Amkus offers extended reach tips for some of its tools, which can be inverted to perform lifts.
Jaques observes that research into battery technology will have a large impact on hydraulic rescue tools in the future. “The industry is trying to design out lithium because it’s flammable,” he notes. “But we are five to 10 years away before something better than lithium replaces it. In the meantime, I think batteries will get smaller, weigh less, and contain more energy.”
|7 A firefighter uses an Amkus Rescue Tools AMK-22 cutter in tight quarters. (Photo courtesy of Amkus Rescue Tools.)|
ALAN M. PETRILLO is a Tucson, Arizona-based journalist and is a member of the Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment editorial advisory board. He served 22 years with the Verdoy (NY) Fire Department, including in the position of chief.