The jaws of life

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The jaws of life is a term that has been in use since the early 1970s. We will examine the meaning of the expression jaws of life, where it came from and some examples of its use in sentences.

The jaws of life is a term that refers to many hydraulic rescue tools used by emergency response crews in order to extricate an accident victim from the wreckage of a rollover, car crash, or other vehicular accident. In most cases, the first responder who aids victims in their escape from such an accident is a firefighter, or a member of fire and rescue. Emergency medical personnel are there too, to treat the injuries of victims and take them to the hospital as quickly as possible by ambulance.  The expression the jaws of life may be applied to any number of hydraulic tools used as rescue equipment, which are used to cut through the wreck of a mangled passenger vehicle, spread apart the metal with a spreader or with rams run off a hydraulic pump. The invention of the jaws of life has been credited with saving many injured people with a minimum of extra trauma. Interestingly, the inventor of the jaws of life, George Hurst, was inspired by a collision he witnessed on the auto race track. The driver was trapped in his car, and using a saw to cut the occupant out of his confined spaced posed the danger of sparking a fire. Prying him out with a crowbar threatened the integrity of the vehicle. Within a decade, Hurst had brought the Jaws of Life to market. Today, the jaws of life are used in all types of critical situations, including the collapse of structures due to negligence, accident or earthquake. The name jaws of life is simply taken from the fact that the cutter may look like a big pair of jaws, and using it to rescue a victim saves his life. Note that the term jaws of life is rendered in lowercase letters, unless referring to the apparatus that is still manufactured today by the Hurst company, in which case the trademarked term is capitalized as in Jaws of Life.


Firefighters uses the “Jaws of Life” to free a victim who was trapped in a vehicle, Ottawa Fire Services said in a news release. (The Edmonton Sun)

The Wilton Fire Department recently received and trained on these new battery-powered hydraulic rescue tools, often referred to as the jaws of life, together with pneumatic lifting bags, rescue struts and other related equipment. (The Wilton Bulletin)

He said there appeared to be no damage to the pump station, but first responders used the jaws of life to help the man out of the vehicle before he was transported to McLaren Port Huron in serious condition. (The Times Herald)

At the extrication station, operating the “jaws of life” tool to remove a car door made a distinct crunch noise that I won’t soon forget and never want to hear from inside a vehicle.  (Coeur d’Alene Press)