When the Swiss Army knife first came to life in the late 1800s, it was pure innovation – many tools within one tool. Commissioned by the Swiss Army and later adopting the name coined by American troops, this brilliant combination of essential tools housed in one unit gave the Swiss army a single place to go for their mainstay utensils when out in the field.
They say history repeats itself, and today law enforcement personnel benefits from the pure innovation of another tool within a tool. That tool is called StrongArm®.
"StrongArm is a game changer," said Bruce Johnston, director of marketing and product management for Hurst Jaws of Life, Inc. The company's StrongArm tool gives law enforcement a single handheld tool that can cut, lift, spread and break down doors.
StrongArm's cylindrical shape – around eight inches wide, eight inches high and 30 inches in length – has features that replace a variety of single-purpose hand tools such as crowbars, Halligan bars, wire cutters, axes and more. Powered by hydraulic power and easy to hold with a four-position handle, StrongArm can cut through 3/8" rebar, grade 43 chain and two-by-four wood planks.
The tool's diversity comes with easy-change tips that turn the cutting tool into a spreading tool, prying open wood and metal doors and bending and breaking locks for quick access to people and spaces – a feat for which HURST Jaws of Life is well known.
From Race Cars to Rebar
Originally manufactured by Hurst Performance, Inc., in Warminster, Pennsylvania, the HURST Jaws of Life rescue system was developed for use in the race car industry more than 40 years ago. The original tool was a two-part system consisting of a 32-inch hydraulic spreader powered by a two-cycle gasoline power unit. Because the tool reduced the time to extricate a victim from a car crash, literally snatching them from the jaws of death, the tool earned the name Jaws of Life. Today, Jaws of Life is a registered trademark of Hurst Jaws of Life, Inc.; the rescue systems travel with more than 35,000 rescue squads and fire and police departments throughout the world.
It's not unusual to hear or read a news report in which the reporter says firefighters rescued someone at the scene of an accident using Jaws of Life. In fact, HURST Jaws of Life's newest tool addition, StrongArm, was originally designed for firefighters, providing a mission-critical all-tools-in-one that could ensure help got to fallen firefighters. However, while the tool was under development, HURST realized the benefits it could offer to police and law enforcement for both rescue and SWAT scenarios.
StrongArm for law enforcement and military fits easily into the trunk of a patrol car and can help officers quickly open a jammed door. Johnston noted that its compact size offers benefits not just for tactical rescue scenes, but also for criminal investigations.
"StrongArm's cutting tips can get to small, sealed vehicle spaces used for smuggling," he said. "Plus, its portability means it can accompany law enforcement officers in tight spaces during SWAT scenarios."
It seems an oxymoron that something so strong could be so portable, but HURST engineers took advantage of today's advances in technology and strong metals to make StrongArm extremely durable yet lightweight. The cylinder is made of anti-corrosive light aluminum alloy for weight, strength and long life, and its exterior boasts high-impact, non-metallic housing. The two rechargeable batteries, each of which holds its charge for 30 minutes, weighs just 2.7 pounds.
"Like firefighters, law enforcement officers wear and carry protective equipment and gear that already add considerable weight to someone who needs to be nimble,” Johnston said. "We made sure StrongArm would offer critical tools with as little weight as possible – and without compromising power or strength."
Designed to be carried in one hand, StrongArm weighs less than 26 pounds, with exact weight depending on the attachments. For example, a built-in Picatinny accessory rail holds optional accessories such as a flashlight. Without the light, the tool is suitable for stealth operations; its black color fades into night, and the on/off button stays recessed and un-lit when the tool is in the "on" position.
Designed for the User
"We rely on the customer to tell us what they want in their tools, and we work to meet those needs," said Chip Johnson, who is a law enforcement specialist for HURST Jaws of Life. "We know law enforcement officers prefer using their own flashlight, and the accessory rail lets them do that. They tell us how they need to maneuver tools when breaking down doors, and we design our products so they can do that, too."
Johnson joined HURST last summer, bringing unique insight into how first responders use their tools. His 22-year career includes serving as a police officer, volunteer and federal firefighter, and police trainer before joining the sales team for a provider of interactive simulation training products for law enforcement and military.
"I was very familiar with HURST Jaws of Life for fire service. I understood the tools as a first responder and saw how the advanced tools of StrongArm can supplement the manual tools law enforcement have in the field," he said. Johnson received the Governor's Award for Heroism and Bravery from North Carolina Governor Hunt in 1999 and the Secretary's Hero Award from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for his work after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
"One thing I know, when you're on the scene – whether it's as a police officer, firefighter or EMS technician – you need quick access to your tools and complete trust in them," Johnson said. "With StrongArm, you've got both."