Jaws of Life upgraded to match strength of newer cars

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It's the one tool that can save your life when timing matters most. But newer cars made from stronger steel have made the Jaws of Life look a little weak.

Norman Brown, a driver engineer with the Hillsborough County Fire Rescue, has seen this first-hand.

“We’re coming across vehicles that have this ultra-strength steel and our old equipment just doesn’t have the power to cut that kind of material,” he said.

Hillsborough County Battalion Chief Ronnie Johnson says he has plans to bring an upgraded, battery-operated version to his firehouse.

“It’s much stronger, and sharper,” Johnson said. “It is also much, much faster, and reduces the time in minutes if not seconds, to get through the equipment.”

The tool is pivotal to the work a fire rescue team does. In 2017, the Jaws of Life were used in 346 incidents to help entrapped victims. Thus far in 2018, it’s been used 195 times. 

The new version was put to the test in a demonstration Friday, as two members of the team raced to get the job done. 

Brown used the new tool and Tim Pearson, a training officer, used the original. 

Brown finished several minutes ahead. Pearson, meanwhile, encountered a major issue - a hydraulic fuel leak from the hose attached to the equipment.

The new device wouldn’t have the issue because of its internal battery.

Chief Johnson says, besides efficient, it’s also safer.

"It’s much safer on the firefighters, as well as the environment, and therefore the patients.”