Jaws of Life helps fire crews remove victims without moving their spine

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. - The Jaws of Life is used frequently to remove patients from cars in Palm Beach County.

It is not just one tool, but a series of tools that are used to cut open a vehicle.

"We do not grab a victim out of a side window just because it is the easiest way. Those days are long gone," District Chief Doug McGlynn with Palm Beach County Fire Rescue said.

McGlynn says if a car is on fire or there are other dangerous circumstances, they will pull a person out.

But when they have more time, they use the Jaws of Life to remove the roof and side of a car.

"It allows us to make sure everything stays in line from the head all the way down to the toes. Even if you move or manipulate the legs in one direction or the other, it will manipulate the spine," McGlynn said.

McGlynn says firefighters who respond to an accident assume everyone could have a back injury.

First, they take the roof off. Then they do what they call "the side out" which is when they take the door off.

It generally takes about ten minutes before they can remove the patient but can take much longer in complicated situations.

"We put a backboard behind them without turning or twisting them and they come right out the top where the roof is. That is hands down the safest way to remove a patient," McGlynn said.

In most cases, seven firefighters work cutting open the car while others keep watch for fuel leaks and other hazards.

"There are a lot of things we have to be very careful of. The last thing you want to do is cut through anything.

Even a small reaction of the tool can not only fracture a firefighter's hand, but a rapid movement of the tool could harm the patient," McGlynn said.

McGlynn says the Jaws of Life technology has come a long way over the past ten years especially because cars are more advanced with hybrid and safety features.


Print this article Back to Top