By: Timothy Kays
THE VILLAGE REPORTER
There are those of us old enough to remember the days when the extraction tools available to rescue personnel consisted of a pry bar and a Halligan. In the 1960s, George Hurst invented a hydraulic rescue tool that, after modifications by several other companies, became a standard tool of firefighters everywhere…the jaws unit.
Commonly referred to as the Jaws of Life, the jaws unit consists of three tool types, a cutter, a ram, and a spreader, with some units combining a cutter and spreader.
The spreader can exert several tons of pressure on an object, moving what once was immovable. Up until recently, the jaws units were deployed in the same manor, hooked by hydraulic hoses to a fire engine.
The Springfield Township Fire Department owns a jaws unit, and over the years it has served Stryker and the outlying area well. Jaws units are constantly being upgraded technologically, which is both a good and bad thing. The bad part is that technology has advanced to the point that after nine years, a jaws unit becomes obsolete. Manufacturers no longer make replacement parts or service units of that age. The Springfield Township Fire Department has discovered this, as their 30-year old jaws unit is in need of refurbishing. With no parts to get the job done, the only option is to get new units. There was the option to go to the Trustees and ask for the $35,000 to purchase new equipment, or the other…putting a levy on the ballot and placing the burden squarely upon the shoulders of the taxpayers. The members of the Springfield Township Fire Department had another idea though, and put it into action on August 20. The first annual Jaws Jam was the result, a fundraiser to purchase new jaws gear to serve the community.
Beginning with a parade through town at 10 a.m., the event shifted back to the firehouse where delectable barbecued chicken and pulled pork sandwiches with coleslaw, baked beans, chips, and pop were available for a $7.50 donation. A beer tent was available, and several local vendors set up shop in South Depot Street. There were activities aplenty for the kids, including a ‘fire house’ where kids attacked a mock fire with junior-sized gear. A dunk tank, face painting, a money scramble, power wheels races and more were available to keep the kids occupied, while adults socialized or took part in a corn hole tournament. The band Ratnip took the stage at 6 p.m. to close out the evening, with all proceeds from the day-long event going to the Springfield Township Fire Department to help purchase a new set of jaws.
Attendance was kept down by the threat of rain, which eventually became a reality. Despite the rain, several thousand dollars were raised for the cause. That cause is actually an investment into the community, and into the area served by the Springfield Township Fire Department. Looking at the new units and comparing them to the ones currently in use is like comparing an M4 carbine to a Spencer repeater. Both did their jobs admirably when called upon, but the need to get and keep air pressure up on an engine and attach the hoses before getting down to business are history. The new units are battery powered, and totally self-contained. The old units restricted emergency personnel to the radius of the hoses. The new units can go wherever they are needed, including inside buildings…something that the old units could never do.
Then there is the power factor, especially with the spreader tool that is used to pry open the twisted metal that once was a car or truck door. The new units can generate 658 kilonewtons of force on whatever needs to be pried open…three times the power of the old units. For those who need a refresher in applied physics, one newton is the force needed to accelerate one kilogram of mass, at the rate of one meter per second squared, in the direction of the applied force. This unit, which is easily carried and very ergonomic to use, will apply 73.962 tons of force…147,924 pounds of pressure to be applied with pinpoint accuracy, wherever it is needed. At the scene of a serious accident, seconds count. The time-sapping elements of attaching hoses, dragging them around and making sure that they do not kink or get tangled are a thing of the past with these new units.
Sure, $35,000 is expensive, especially in this economy. As the fundraising carries on though, one must weigh the new units in an objective balance. If a life can be saved because of the speed and power of the new jaws units, how much is that life worth in comparison? Heaven forbid that you, the reader, or any of your friends or loved ones are ever in need of an emergency extrication. Should that need arise though, which would you prefer coming to your aid…the new, more powerful and reliable jaws units, or a relic from the Reagan Administration?
If you or your company is interested in making an investment into the safety and well being of your family, friends and neighbors, Chief Tad Shindledecker of the Springfield Township Fire Department would love to talk with you about the new jaws units, and about how you can help. Give him a call at 419-682-7332.
Timothy Kays can be reached at