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Here’s why underwater cutting tools are the next fire rescue “must-have”

For water rescue operations, you’ll need tools that can withstand the water environment

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Sponsored by Hurst

By Robert Avsec for FireRescue1 BrandFocus

Ask most firefighters and fire officers to describe what tools are necessary for safe, effective, and efficient water rescue operations and you’ll likely get answers like ropes, pullies, PFDs (personal floatation devices), and boats. Perhaps it’s not on your short-list now, but the battery-powered underwater cutting tool from Hurst should be and here’s why.

An unexpected addition: Enter the underwater cutting tool

The primary factor that should help guide your department’s decision to consider underwater cutting tools should hinge upon your department’s geographical response area’s risk profile. The U.S. and Canada certainly have areas where the interfaces between road networks and bodies of water are very limited, so the probability of a vehicle ending up in a river, stream or lake is practically nil.

On the other hand, both countries have many regions—and not just coastal areas—where roads and those bodies of water coexist. With that said, it’s worthy to note that the community’s risk profile can rapidly change due to weather conditions (e.g., Houston in 2017 after Hurricane Harvey made landfall three times in six days. At its peak on September 1, 2017, one-third of Houston was underwater. Two feet of rain fell in the first 24 hours).

And we’re witnessing with greater frequency rain weather events once described as “freak” (e.g., urban flooding from hurricanes and river flooding from other slow-moving weather fronts) now becoming far more common around the globe. For this reason, proactive fire departments must resist complacency and not simply limit themselves to their knowledge of the existing bodies of water in their response. With more square miles of the area under concrete and asphalt than ever before, flash flooding can occur just about anywhere.

Many fire departments serving areas with an elevated risk for working in flood conditions have established a flood rescue capability and have trained their personnel accordingly. As part of that planning, those departments have purchased risk critical equipment that allows personnel to work safely, effectively, and efficiently in or near water, but rarely, if ever, has that planning included a role for hydraulic rescue tools.

The need for emergency intervention after a vehicle has entered a body of water is, in the words of noted public safety risk reduction expert Gordon Graham, a “high risk, low-frequency event.” But it’s one that’s becoming more frequent in countries all around the world. And while cars winding up in a body of water following a motor vehicle crash or being swept away by floodwaters will not always require the use of hydraulic rescue tools, the failure to be able to do so when needed will undoubtedly delay patient extrication efforts, a challenging—and frustrating—experience for any rescue professional.

Almost 50 years after it introduced the Jaws of Life brand to the world, Hurst rolled out the next generation in rescue tools with its eDRAULIC line of electric-hydraulic tools. This innovative line of battery-powered rescue tools (spreaders, cutters, and rams) “cut the cord” for rescuers giving them the untethered power of hydraulics without hoses or a power plant (Hurst built upon the success of the eDRAULIC with the introduction of its 2.0 line of spreaders, cutters, and rams).

That history of innovation has continued with the introduction of the Hurst Model S788EWXT (eDRAULIC Watertight Extrication Tool) rescue tool the first of its kind hydraulic-powered cutter that enables firefighters to operate the tool while it’s submerged in freshwater and do so unencumbered by any hoses or power units. And despite this unique quality, it’s still one of the fastest and most powerful cutters in the business (Hurst also offers the Model SP555EWXT Spreader and the Model R521EWXT Ram with the same waterproof capabilities).

Using a specially designed potting process, tool engineers designed a protective compound for the internals of the HURST Jaws of Life EWXT watertight tool. When submerged, water enters the tool case, but the potting creates a seal that prevents moisture from getting to any of the internal components, such as the battery and circuit board. As a result, the HURST Jaws of Life EWXT tools can be completely submerged and remain operational while underwater, without risk of damage to the battery or any loss of performance.


The tools in the EWXT line have cases that are three inches shorter than their eDRAULIC cousins for increased mobility during extrication. Tools in the EWXT line also feature:

  • New axial piston pump design
  • Optimized weight for easier handling (Especially when submerged) and less user fatigue
  • Brushless DC electrical motors than run more efficiently with higher performance for a longer battery life (Brushless motors are significantly more efficient, draw less current, and that means firefighters gain more battery runtime)
  • Wide cutter opening of almost 8 inches
  • Two LED lights that provide illumination at the working end of the tool (cutter and spreader). The EWXT Ram features four LEDs instead of the standard two, providing first responders with more visibility in confined spaces and during night rescues.
  • Larger battery option (9-amp, 25.2-volt) with IP68 protection class
  • New, faster battery charger

Just as fire departments prepare themselves for other water-based interventions by procuring a wide range of equipment, the probability of incidents where vehicles wind up in a body of water and an occupant needs extrication, mean this approach should be extended when considering hydraulic rescue equipment.

For more than a decade, Hurst has delivered battery-powered hydraulic tools that have become the number one choice of fire departments and other rescue agencies. Submergible rescue tools are fast becoming an operational necessity for many fire departments and now they can obtain a solution that genuinely provides for safer, more effective, and more efficient operations when the going gets wet.

Battalion Chief Robert Avsec (ret.) served with the Chesterfield (Virginia) Fire & EMS Department for 26 years. He was an instructor for fire, EMS and hazardous materials courses at the local, state and federal levels, which included more than 10 years with the National Fire Academy. Chief Avsec earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Cincinnati and his master’s degree in executive fire service leadership from Grand Canyon University. He is a 2001 graduate of the National Fire Academy’s EFO Program. Beyond his writing for and, Avsec authors the blog Talking “Shop” 4 Fire & EMS and has published his first book, “Successful Transformational Change in a Fire and EMS Department: How a Focused Team Created a Revenue Recovery Program in Six Months – From Scratch.” Connect with Avsec on LinkedIn or via email.

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