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The Jaws of Life Are a Terrifying Tool for Rescue

The Jaws of Life Are a Terrifying Tool for Rescue

The road can be dangerous, and you never know what to expect. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than 42,000 deaths were due to traffic accidents in 2021. Thankfully, rescuers have some of the latest and greatest technologies to help rescue individuals involved in accidents. Despite their terrifying look and power, the Jaws of Life is one of the most useful tools available and helps save lives.

Today, we’re taking a close look at this powerful tool and how it can save your life. Let’s get started!

We Bought the Jaws of Life

What Are the Jaws of Life?

The Jaws of Life is a tool used during emergencies. It’s a hydraulic or electric tool that’s capable of generating tremendous force. It uses spreaders, cutters, and rams to pry, cut, and lift objects. 

The tool assists first responders with rescuing people from crashed vehicles, collapsed buildings, or other emergencies. If you or a loved one ever need extrication, you’ll be glad responders have this tool at their disposal.

Fireman using the Jaws of Life
First responders rely on the Jaws of Life in emergency situations.

Who Invented the Jaws of Life?

In the early 1970s, Holger Hanse saw a need and put his intellectual abilities to work. The goal was to reduce the time it took to extract individuals from vehicles after accidents. This resulted in the creation of Hurst Jaws of Life, Inc., which manufactured the first Jaws of Life. The tool revolutionized the industry and has become a piece of standard equipment for rescuers. 

The company originally in Denmark, now sells to more than 100 countries that use it. Over the past 50 years, the company has adapted and improved the Jaws of Life to improve its capabilities. The faster rescuers get to trapped individuals, the better their chance of saving lives.

Pro Tip: Be prepared for anything by having these 36 Important Tools You Need In Your RV Tool Kit.

Why Is It Called the Jaws of Life?

These life-saving devices get their name from their ability to snatch people from the “jaws of death.” The product eventually received the nickname “Jaws of Life,” and Hurst jumped at the opportunity to trademark it.

The Hurst Jaws of Life is the most known brand to offer these life-saving devices. However, there are a host of other companies that offer competing products. Like Kleenex, Band-Aid, and Crock-Pot, the Jaws of Life’s brand name is often incorrectly used to describe all devices that perform this function.

Hurst Jaws of Life design many types of life-saving devices.

How the Jaws of Life Can Save Your Life

The Jaws of Life use hydraulics to deliver tremendous power to the device. Depending on the tools attached to the device, rescuers can perform various tasks. One of the most common uses for the Jaws of Life is to extricate people from vehicles. This was the main purpose behind their creation, as Hurst saw how long it took to free stock car drivers from crumpled vehicles.

The jaws can easily cut through metal frames and supports. Like a can opener, rescuers can remove or peel back the top of a vehicle to make it easier for them to access the occupants of a vehicle. However, while this is the most common way the device can save your life, it’s certainly not the only way.

The tool may have a reputation for its ability to cut, but its hydraulic power is also great for lifting. This can be especially helpful in front-end collisions where a vehicle’s dash could trap a driver or passenger in a position. By using the Jaws of Life as a spreader, responders can have more room to get occupants out of a vehicle without causing further injuries.

Who Uses the Jaws of Life?

Firefighters are typically the most common users. However, emergency responders of all types use them to cut through steel and other tough materials. 

Paramedics and the military are two popular users of these powerful tools, and they use them in various situations and circumstances.

Opening car accident victims door with Jaws of Life
The Jaws of Life are often used in car accidents to open vehicles.

The Types of Jaws of Life

There are multiple types of Jaws of Life devices that are incredibly useful. Let’s look at each of these tools and how they can help save lives.


The spreaders on a Jaws of Life are useful for compressed vehicles and collapsed structures. These devices start closed and then open their powerful jaws. The more the jaws open, the more space victims and first responders have to work with. It doesn’t matter whether it’s steel or fiberglass. These tools can force these materials apart with ease.


The cutters were Hurst’s original plan after seeing the dangers of using circular saws. Unlike the spreaders, the cutters function like scissors and can cut through metal and other materials. These are the most common Jaws of Life tools people think of when they refer to these devices. 

Firefighters and other emergency workers can remove the roof, doors, and other large chunks of a vehicle to access victims.


Jaws of Life rams are hydraulic rescue tools used to push or spread apart structural elements of a vehicle to create an opening and rescue a person trapped inside. They use hydraulic pressure to generate a significant amount of force applied to the vehicle’s metal panels, doors, or pillars. 

The goal of the rams is to create enough space for the rescue personnel to safely extricate the person trapped inside the vehicle.

Combination Tools

The Jaws of Life combination tools are like the Swiss army knife for rescue devices. These are multiple tools in one product. They typically are both cutters and spreaders, which allows rescuers to access trapped individuals without wasting time switching tools. 

Every second is critical in these types of situations. Accessing victims as quickly and efficiently as possible could mean the difference between life and death.

Pro Tip: Ensure you are ready for any problem you encounter with these 21 Electrical Tools Every RVer Needs.

Firefighter using Jaws of Life on vehicle.
The Jaws of Life can save your life in the matter of seconds.

Can They Be Used Underwater?

While many of these devices can get wet, most are not designed for underwater use; however, the Jaws of Life EWXT can get the job done. They’re a best-in-class device that works without hoses or power units. However, despite lacking hoses or power units, they’re still one of the most powerful tools in the industry.

These devices can prove incredibly useful, especially in areas with many bodies of water or a history of flooding. The upgraded tools feature a massive battery, multiple LED lights, and cutters capable of opening approximately eight inches. In addition, they have the Hurst stamp of approval, so you know they’ll get the job done.

How Many Lives Have the Jaws of Life Saved?

There are estimates that the Jaws of Life is responsible for saving more than 24,000 lives. However, the actual number is not publicly available. It would be difficult to quantify and track the specific number of rescues performed with this tool. But it’s safe to say that because emergency responders widely use the Jaws of Life, it’s a massive number. 

HURST Jaws of Life Demo: Dash Lift with Spreader

Hope You Never Need Them, But They’re Here If You Do

The Jaws of Life has saved countless lives by providing a fast and effective means of rescue in emergencies. While we hope that you or your loved ones never need them, we’re glad they’re available if you do. 

You can make your community safer by supporting your local fire department and rescue workers and ensuring they have the latest and most up-to-date rescue tools, like the Jaws of Life.

Do you own a Jaws of Life tool? Tell us which one in the comments!

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About Mortons on the Move

Tom & Caitlin Morton of Mortons on the Move gave up the stationary life for one where they are constantly on the move. They are full-time travelers, television hosts, and digital media producers.
They left their jobs, sold their house and possessions, and hit the road in September 2015 in their full-time “home on wheels”. Since then they have traveled the US, Canada, and even internationally by RV.
Now, they are Discovery Channel & PBS TV Co-stars of “Go North” on Amazon Prime Video, co-founders and instructors of RV Masterclass, and contributing authors for and an Arizona travel guide.

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