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Who’s behind the tools at HURST Jaws of Life? It’s people like Tammy Horne – manager, mechanical designer, DIYer, golfer, tool thief. Wait – tool thief?

“I was always under Dad’s foot when I was a little girl. If he was re-shingling the roof or replacing the car’s brake pads, I was right there with him,” she said. “He got tired of me stealing tools out of his toolbox, so when I was around 10, he made me my own.”

Tools in hand, Tammy tinkered with whatever she could, taking things apart and putting them back together just for fun. Other times, she could be found in the backyard playing football and baseball with the neighborhood kids. Her innate curiosity and competitiveness stayed with her through her time at Appalachian State University, where she discovered industrial arts.

“I took classes in wood working, the metal shop, pottery. But it was a technical drafting class that set my course. That’s when I knew I had found home,” she said.

With a Bachelor of Science degree in manufacturing technology, Tammy got a job designing playground equipment. She next worked at a rubber extruding plant then did substation design work for a power company. She joined HURST Jaws of Life as a mechanical designer 18 years ago and today is engineering manager.

Tammy may have turned in her ball glove for golf clubs, and instead of chasing a football around the backyard she lopes around with her Great Dane, Lucy, but she still loves her tools. But instead of hammers and screwdrivers, her tools today are eDRAULIC spreaders and 10,000 and 5,000 PSI extrication tools. Her favorite part of designing the tools is the collaboration and the process that gets the team to the final tool.

A few years ago, Tammy was working on a design for a low-pressure cutter that would offer more power in the relevant cutting area. Tammy laughs that the original design had it so big and so heavy it became affectionately known as Miss Piggy. It didn’t make it to market, but Tammy’s attitude is, “What can I learn from this?” From that original design, she ended up creating a hybrid that’s the JL 500 – a cutter designed to cut through today’s high strength steels.

“The new car technology is challenging, and we’re always striving to be on the cutting edge of the next innovative thing,” she said. “We need to keep first responders in equipment that helps them do their jobs more efficiently and more effectively.

“The cool part for me is seeing the tools at work,” she said. “Nothing tops hearing a firefighter tell you a story about how they used your tools to get someone out of a bad situation,” she said. “It’s humbling, and it makes you proud of what you do.”