Hydraulic rescue tools are used by emergency rescue personnel to assist vehicle extrication of crash victims, as well as other rescues from small spaces. These tools include cutters, spreaders, and rams. Hydraulic rescue tools are powered by a hydraulic pump, which can be hand, foot, or engine-powered or even built into the tool. These tools may be either single-acting, where hydraulic pressure will only move the cylinder in one direction, or dual-acting, in which hydraulic pressure is used to both open and close the hydraulic cylinder. Previously rescuers often used circular saws for vehicle extrication, but these suffered from several drawbacks. Saws can conduct sparks, which could start a fire, create loud sounds, stress the victim, and often cut slowly. Alternatively, rescuers could try to pry open the vehicle doors with a crowbar, which, at times, could compromise the stability of the vehicle, injure the victims further, or inadvertently trigger the airbags of the vehicle.
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