CLINTON -- Fire crews in this city only use their life-saving rescue tools a few times a year, but when the Jaws of Life is put to use, every second counts.
The Clinton fire department was disturbed to learn recently that its 20-year-old Jaws of Life equipment was not keeping up with the car industry.
Although the old cutter and spreader equipment still functioned well, cars are now made with metals that are a lot tougher to cut through.
"You can't predict which kind of car or metals you're going to get, and with so many factors, we often had to come up with creative ways to get the victim out," Fire Chief Dave Olsen said. "You can push your tools to the limit, but ultimately, we don't want to fall back on that, so we needed to have tools where we can get in and get to the victim as fast as we can."
After a couple years of planning and working with the city council, the Fire Department spent the budgeted $30,000 to purchase updated Jaws of Life tools, which included a new cutter (a hydraulic tool used to cut through metal), a spreader (a tool with hydraulic-powered arms that can be inserted into a narrow gap between vehicle panels or be used to pop vehicle doors from their hinges) and a combination tool that is slightly smaller but has cutting and spreading blades.
Clinton is one of the first cities in Top of Utah to have a new set of life-saving rescue tools. The new tools are battery-powered and run off a 25.2-volt battery. The old system was hooked to a large hydraulic power unit that attached to cumbersome 100-foot hydraulic lines.
Olsen said the fire crews often felt like they were on a leash with the old system. But with the new one, they can move easily.
The old cutters had a 22,500 pounds per square inch cutting capacity, but the new battery-powered tools can cut up to 200,000 psi.
"Technology over the last 20 years has dramatically changed," Olsen said.
The firefighters haven't yet used the new tools in a real-life emergency scenario, but they demonstrated them recently at a fire department open house.
Olsen said they were able to pop the door where the simulated victim was trapped within one minute and 36 seconds. Using their old tools, they still would have been hooking up lines and getting the hydraulic unit set up in that amount of time, ultimately taking closer to 20 minutes to extricate a victim.
"Just in that small time frame we're now able to access the patient and start patient care, which is absolutely crucial when they're hurt bad," Olsen said.
The new tool is a little heavier than the old one, but the advantages far outweigh the extra weight. The hydraulic unit is sealed on the equipment, so it's portable, with no worry about the generator and hoses.
The new tools are also a lot quieter, allowing for easier communication. Olsen said:
"If anything goes wrong on the emergency scene, this gives us the ability to communicate without having to talk over the power unit," which was the case with the old tools.