The Jaws of Life

The content below is from Episode 103 of the Who’d a Thunk It? Podcast


  • This week I recommend you check out the Hulu original series Pam and Tommy
    • The show is about the real-life story of Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee’s honeymoon sex tape that was stolen and leaked to the public.
    • I was born in 1993 so I don’t remember much at all about this scandal as it was happening. But I do know it was the first viral video. The tape was spread all over the place and just about everyone around at the time saw it. I also know of Pamela Anderson because I was a teenage boy once and she was on Playboy lol.
    • But what makes this show so interesting is how it shows each person involved as actual people.
    • Pamela Anderson wasn’t just a bimbo as many might have thought.
      • She was a small town canadian girl with dreams of becoming a mom.
    • Tommy Lee wasn’t just a rockstar.
      • While the show did portray him as a straight up asshole to his contractors, they also portrayed him as a loving husband and mournful father.
    • The subject material is obviously full of raunchy comedy stuff, but I think the overall message of the show is to highlight what the internet has done to our society as a whole. Whether for better or worse, the internet has connected us all. It is a great power that can be a great help to people, or it could ruin people’s lives.
      • Pam and Tommy’s sex tape is one of the first examples of that.


  • Back in 1958 the Hurst Performance Inc. was founded by Bill Campbell and George Hurst in Warminster Township Pennsylvania. The company manufactured and marketed products for enhancing the performance of automobiles, most notably muscle cars.
    • George Hurst built a thriving business around motor racing, building floor-mounted gear shifts for race cars.
      • By the early 1960s, Hurst transmission shifters and other products had become legendary in auto racing, particularly in drag racing, and among custom car makers. Many automobile enthusiasts replaced flimsy factory shifters (and steering column shifters, as well) with Hurst floor shifters to obtain better control of gear selection, particularly for competitive driving. As automotive historian Mike Mueller noted, “If you didn’t have a Hurst shifter in your supercar, you were a mild-mannered loser.”
    • His company’s hand in enhancing the performance of some of American’s most beloved cars brought George Hurst to Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1961.
    • While at the races back in 61′ he witnessed a crash and watched as the rescue crews took over an hour just to extract the driver from the wreckage.
    • An idea came to him in that grimm moment: “there has to be a better way.” This idea occurs to many people, but it takes that entrepreneurial spirit to get things done.
  • Hurst got to work. He had to come up a process or tool to make wreckage extraction more efficient.
    • He started by examining the current tools used: circular saws.
      • Besides taking much too long to cut in to the frame of a car, these saws were extremely loud (which distresses those who are trapped), and they create sparks which greatly increase the chance of an explosion (considering car wrecks typically have fuel spilled everywhere).
      • Other attempts to free trapped victims were done with a crowbar or halligan bar, but in doing so, rescue crews often made vehicles unstable. Prying open car doors giant metal bars works, but isn’t a quick job. It takes a lot of time and man power. Plus, all that jostling around shifts the car and could endanger the trapped victim further.
    • So Hurst came up with a different tool: the Hurst Power Tool
      • The first prototype was a patented hydraulic rescue tool that weighed 350 pounds. This of course was far too heavy for rescue crews to weild properly, but it was a start.
  • Within a decade, the Hurst Power Tool was cut down to about 65 pounds, making it MUCH more useful and marketable.
    • In 1971, they took the Hurst Power Tool to the SEMA trade show  for specialty equipment marketers in California. The spotlight propelled their device into stardom, and soon, fire departments were carrying it on their firetrucks.
    • The world of rescue soon realized hydraulic spreader-cutters are quieter, faster, stronger, and more versatile: they can cut, open, and even lift a vehicle.
    • Another little cool detail about the Jaws of Life is about the hydraulic fluid used:
      • Oil is the most commonly used incompressible fluid for hydraulic machines. However, the Jaws of Life equipment uses a phosphate-ester fluid, which is fire resistant and electrically non-conductive. At a crash scene, this type of synthetic fluid is favored over conventional oil.
      • The little details like that are what make this piece of equipment so cool. It was created by a company that developed badass car parts that are known for being dangerous, but their rescue equipment is made for safety. Down to the type of hydraulic fluid used.
    • When an occupant is trapped the tool is used to pry or cut the car to remove the occupant. It takes about two minutes to take the roof off a car. 
    • What used to take an hour, now only took rescue crews about 3 minutes.
      • As the Hurst website notes, “In three minutes, the average person can listen to a song, make their bed or brush their teeth. In three minutes, first responders can save a life with HURST Jaws of Life tools.”
    • Firefighters can elect to carry a combination tool that is the Swiss Army knife of the Jaws of Life, with cutting and spreading functions that increase the speed of extrication. Some departments also carry individual-function Jaws of Life machines that spread, cut, and ram. The StrongArm was adapted to meet the standards of law enforcement and military communities, adding a capable tool to their breaching arsenals. 
      • From what I can tell, it seems 5,000 pounds per square inch is the standard amount of forced used with these tools. I’m sure they can go higher, but that is the standard.
      • For comparison: the strongest bite ever recorded was a saltwater crocodile with 3,700 psi and we humans bite in to a steak with about 150 to 200 psi.
Ram in action
  • The Hurst Power Tool adopted the nickname the “Jaws of Life” for its role in snatching victims from the “jaws of death.”
    • Mike Brick (the man Hurst hired to market his invention) coined the phrase “Jaws of Life” after he observed people saying that their new device “snatched people from the jaws of death”, then used as a registered brand name for Hurst products. The name “jaws of life” is, however, used colloquially to describe other hydraulic rescue tools.
    • In the marketing and public relations field, this name is regarded as an amazing idea. The Jaws of Life sounds badass and it represents an invention that is super cool… that also happens to save lives on a regular basis.
    • Jaws of Life is still a trademarked brand name. But could be in danger to losing their rights to the name to genericization of the trademark.
      • A generic trademark, also known as a genericized trademark or proprietary eponym, is a trademark or brand name that, because of its popularity or significance, has become the generic term for, or synonymous with, a general class of products or services, usually against the intentions of the trademark’s owner.
      • Back in episode 12 “Trademark, Patent, or Copyright?” of the Who’d a Thunk It? Podcast I talked more about this.
      • Trademarks such as Band-Aid, Escalator, Laundromat, and Popsicle were once owned by companies as official brand names, but now lost their exclusive rights to the names. Once their product names became common use words that weren’t brand-specific they became entries in the dictionary and not specific names owned by companies.
      • The name “jaws of life” is such a badass name that it is used colloquially to describe other hydraulic rescue tools. This puts the trademark as risk.
    • I know I went on a tangent there, but I studied communication law in college and it fascinates me.
  • Another great Public Relations campaign conducted by Hurst is the Green Cross Award
    • Straight from
      • The Green Cross is the symbol of recognition for those who have used HURST Jaws of Life® products to save lives. It’s our way of celebrating the bravery shown by rescue teams worldwide. Since the program’s inception, we’ve acknowledged tens of thousands of men and women around the globe with this prestigious honor.
  • I have a lot of respect for this company and their Public Relations tactics. It comes off as a nice story:
    • Founder of Hurst built his fortune by making muscle cars more efficient and drive faster. – One day he sees the other side of his industry when he whitnesses a crash. The danger associated with his work shocked him and he felt compelled to do something. So he invents life-saving tool that cuts the time of a rescue (situations where every second counts) down by over 55 minutes. With this invention he completely changes how fire and rescue operations are conducted all over the world.
      • It kind of reads like the Iron Man story. I love it.
      • And it just so happens his invention (along with having one of the coolest names for any piece of equipment ever) also looks like a badass piece of equipment. Similar to how little boys look upon modern constructions equipment like dump trucks and backhoes with admiration, I found myself googling what it would cost to buy my very own Jaws of Life… it is like $13,000 LMAO
  • The Hurst Performance company was bought out in 1970 by Sunbeam Products.
    • George Hurst was promised an executive position and seat on the board of directors as part of the buyout, but Sunbeam did not follow through. (According to one variation of this account, Sunbeam specifically informed Mr. Hurst that he would no longer be affiliated with the company.)
    • In 1987, the Hurst operations were sold by Sunbeam and became part of the Mr. Gasket Company. In 2007, B&M Racing and Performance Products bought the Hurst brand.
  • George Hurst died in 1986 at the age of 59. His invention, without a doubt, is one of the most instrumental tools used to save lives of the 20th century and it is still in use today all across the world.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s