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Emergency workers' new hydraulic tools allow faster rescues

manufacturingOLIVE BRANCH —  New hydraulic rescue tools will let crews extract people from smashed cars much faster, says Olive Branch Fire Capt. Dave Taylor.

“They could probably do an extraction in half the time now,” he told The Memphis Commercial Appeal.

Crews are training with the new tools, which Deputy Chief Ken Givens said are also much lighter than the old ones.

During one training session, two crablike claws pressed in and quickly lifted the top from a Mercury Sable. Other tools then folded away the front of the car – something firefighters might do to rescue someone trapped in the front seat.

Givens said the old tools date back to the mid-1980s when he became a firefighter.

“We were still using them. They worked,” Givens said of the nearly 30-year-old tools. “We just took them out of service.”

Instead of one tool to cut and spread steel, there now are eight kinds of tools.

Large cutters exert 320,000 pounds of pressure per square inch and a smaller cutter exerts 269,000 psi. A ram is used to increase space between two pieces, for example between the door frames.

Fire Chief Johnny Eason said rescue workers use such tools more than they used to because the lighter metal in cars crumples more easily. That can prevent injury but also can trap people, he said.

Firefighters no longer have to power down their hydraulic generators to change tools. The new ones can be changed while the generator is running. That means a firefighter no longer has to attend to the generator, freeing him or her to help with the extraction.

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