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Tech—INL’s Advanced Equipment

Electric Jaws of Life modernizes emergency response at INL

Published in the June 2023 Issue Published online: Jun 10, 2023 Discover Idaho Falls
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By Lisa Wilmore, INL Communications

Time is precious for emergency responders. Every second counts when someone is trapped in a motor vehicle after a collision, which is why Idaho National Laboratory’s fire department recently upgraded its equipment to include new electric Jaws of Life tools.

These powerful devices can cut through metal, raise roofs, and push and pull heavy machinery. The new electric extrication tools run on batteries, generate zero emissions and, most importantly, can be on an accident scene faster.

Most fire departments, including INL’s, have traditionally used a Jaws of Life connected to a gas-powered hydraulic pump, which makes them cumbersome. One advantage of the electric Jaws of Life is their ease of use. Without the pump the tools are easier to maneuver, allowing rescuers more precision and control.  

Electric tools require less setup time because they do not need to be connected to an external power source. This also makes them more portable, an advantage when working in remote locations and allows easier maneuverability in small spaces where a hydraulic pump may not fit. The electric versions are quieter and do not emit fumes, making them safer for both rescuers and victims. 

According to INL Fire Chief James Blair the ease of use, portability, safety benefits and lack of greenhouse gas emissions make the electric Jaws of Life superior tools. The move to electric tools is part of a larger sustainability effort by the fire department to reduce its carbon footprint. The efforts align with INL’s pursuit of a net-zero carbon emissions campus by 2031.

Blair also was excited about other changes in the department to help the laboratory achieve its net-zero target, including transitioning to battery-operated ventilation fans. Firefighters use the fans to clear smoke and potential toxic gases, like carbon monoxide, from burning buildings. “These are nice because gasoline-powered fans introduce additional toxic gasses into our hazard zone, thus further complicating the incident,” Blair said. He also plans to improve firehouse efficiency because, “It’s the little things that make the difference that people don’t think of.”

Carlo Melbihess, director of Facilities and Site Services at INL, said these small, incremental steps by each organization in the lab are part of the bigger picture. “We’re constantly taking a look at all of our facilities and equipment to improve them — we know collaboration is what it will take to get us to net-zero.”

Idaho National Laboratory’s net-zero commitment includes decarbonizing its 600-plus vehicle fleet, employee commuting, purchased electricity and 300-plus buildings distributed across an 890-square-mile campus. Current projects are moving the needle, like using renewable diesel made from vegetable oil in commuter buses and improving building efficiencies, which saved over 500 megatons of carbon dioxide emissions at one site location last year. INL’s world-class capabilities and expertise make it an ideal net-zero demonstration site.

About Idaho National Laboratory 

Battelle Energy Alliance manages INL for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy. INL is the nation’s center for nuclear energy research and development, and also performs research in each of DOE’s strategic goal areas: energy, national security, science and the environment. For more information, visit www.inl.gov. Follow us on social media: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. 

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