View All Articles

Getting Wet with EWXT

FDIC International 2019 was one of the most exciting shows in recent years, thanks to the debut of the HURST Jaws of Life® eDRAULIC® Watertight Extrication Tool (EWXT) –– the industry’s first battery-powered watertight rescue tool. We had a great time demo-ing the S 788EWXT and SP 555EWXT with the tools submerged in 75-gallon water tanks at our booth. Fast-forward just a few weeks, and the tools were still underwater. But this time, we were in the water with them.

We spent several days in Texas at Fathom Academy, the only indoor swift water and flood training facility in the U.S. Our rescue specialists trained in controlled pool environments with HURST Jaws of Life EWXT rescue tools in a variety of water scenarios with rain, thunder, lightning, sirens and spotlights. Our takeaways were many, particularly related to the lack of visibility presented by underwater tool operations and how that impediment impacts standard operating procedures for first responders accustomed to traditional land rescues.

Here are three key learnings we’ll be sharing with dealers, trainers and end users as they begin to make HURST Jaws of Life EWXT tools part of their rescue gear.

A New Attack for Hinges

It’s only natural to cut a door hinge with a tool in an ergonomically agreeable position, which is at your waist and coming at the hinge from a horizontal position. However, when the vehicle is underwater with limited visibility, you may not know the height of the hinge. What we’ll be teaching moving forward for extrications in waist-deep water is to attack the hinge from a vertical position, which aids in finding the hinge location. The hinge is always mounted on the A post or B post, so if you follow the post down from a vertical line, you’ll find the hinge. Then, if you turn the tool’s control valve, you will hit it. That new approach changed the speed of the extrication dramatically for us during our training exercises, and as you all know, every second counts in every extrication — even more so in submerged situations.

Light Is Key

Many factors can impact visibility in a water rescue. Murky water, agitated water, rain, the availability of natural light. We found tool lighting a key benefit in a submerged rescue situation. Both the EWXT spreader and cutter have two LED lights to illuminate the front of the tool, and the Ram 521EWXT has four (two on the front, two on the back); however, in some situations, we found additional mounted lighting a significant advantage. The EWXT line shares many features with our E2 line, including the ability to mount additional lighting on the spreaders with the built-in Picatinny rail. These additional high-lumen lights can prove critical in very bad visibility situations.

Spotters and Senses

We also tested an approach where we designated one rescue specialist as a tool placement spotter, and we learned that having a third person on hand for tool placement is an important aid when visibility is low. Your tool placement spotter concentrates on finding the purchase point while the tool operator focuses on the tool position. This approach requires constant and clear communication, with no exceptions.

One of the benefits of HURST Jaws of Life battery-powered eDRAULIC tools is how quiet E2 tools operate, making it easier for first responders to communicate with each other at the scene. Put the EWXT version of the already-quiet tool underwater, and it’s even quieter, which means the operator needs to be keenly aware that their only physical sense of the tool running may be the vibrations. The operator also should always be highly aware of their hand position in relation to the control valve, ensuring there is no risk of tool activation prior to knowing all is clear. Additionally, those first responders around the operator may not hear the tool when it is activated, so they must stay alert, rely on their other senses and be engaged in team communication for everyone’s safety.

As first responders begin receiving their EWXT tools in August, they should remember that what we learned at Fathom Academy in Texas led to finding a few different ways of operating during in-water extrications out of necessity. Approaching the operation similarly to a road-side extrication will lead to considerable challenges, so we encourage this more difficult scenario-based training at your own department. The different challenges it presents will surprise many. We all know that no two rescues are the same, but frequent scenario-based training can reveal new best practices as it did here and can help improve patient packaging times under adverse conditions.