From the 1960 plane crash in Park Slope to the 2001 terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center, Rescue Company 2’s firefighters have constantly responded to New York City’s most dangerous emergencies.
They work in Brooklyn and are trained to deal with about 3,800 emergency rescue situations a year.
Captain Liam Flaherty, who leads Rescue Company 2, told Business Insider about the life-saving tools and technologies that his team uses — from high-tech harnesses for scaling buildings to diamond-cut saws for breaking through concrete walls. Here are a few of them.
If someone is pinned inside a car after a bad accident, Flaherty says the company uses cutters and spreaders -- types of tools dubbed the 'Jaws of Life' -- to get them out. Powered by hydraulic pumps, the tools can widen and cut through steel, allowing firefighters to pull people from wrecked cars.
Flaherty says the 'Jaws of Life' can apply 320,000 pounds of pressure. 'They can cut through anything,' he says. The tools are also used after plane crashes and building collapses.
For pieces of buildings, aeroplanes or other items that are too heavy to pick up, firefighters use special heavy-duty, hydraulic cranes that can travel over any terrain. A group will put a sling around the object, and the crane will lift it and tow it away.
A small, 18-ton rescue crane, for example, can drive over debris, pick up a car and carry it out of the way. A normal crane wouldn't be able to get the job done.
After the September 11th attacks, the FDNY employed cranes to pick up pieces of the wreckage in the search for victims and survivors, Flaherty says.
When firefighters need to rescue people from fires, confined spaces, or gas leaks, Flaherty says it can be dangerous to enter without air quality meters. These tools measure and monitor 50 types of toxic airborne chemicals in the air, including methane, hydrogen sulfide, and carbon monoxide. They can also detect the presence of explosive substances and tell rescuers the oxygen levels in a given area.
When people get stuck in trash compactors and in (or between) elevators, Rescue Company 2 uses a lockout kit, which consists of a set of master keys and padlocks. The keys are used to open locked doors, and the locks are strategically place to ensure the parts of a piece of machinery can't move.
To stop an elevator, for example, rescuers disconnect its power from the building's machine room and put a padlock on it to make sure no one turns it on again. Then they use a set of metal master keys (which look like long metal rods) to open the elevator door and rescue the people stuck inside.
Every Monday, Rescue Company 2 practices scuba diving in the gear pictured above. The team puts it on before rescuing drowning people from overturned boats or jet accidents.
Made of military-grade material, their suits have about 50% fewer seams than most regular wet suits, which reduces the risk of water leaking through.
The rescuers need to wear the full scuba gear -- complete with flippers, suits, masks, and tanks -- because Brooklyn's water can be hazardous for the firefighters, Flaherty says. The gear makes sure no water touches the skin, and reduces the risk of them getting tangled in trash or other debris.
When they dive in, 'it's not like you're in the Bahamas looking at corals,' Flaherty says. 'You can't see one foot in front of you. It's like you're diving into a junkyard.'
In winter months, Rescue Company 2 uses cold water suits in situations when people fall through ice. The super-insulated gear keeps firefighters' body at a constant temperature, reducing the risk of hypothermia. Many of the suits are made of Neoprene, a synthetic rubber that traps body heat and allows them to swim up to 50 yards in 50-degree water.
For example, Flaherty says, someone fell through a frozen lake in Prospect Park last winter. One firefighter put on the cold water suit and a flotation vest, tied a rope around the waist of another firefighter, and secured the rope on the shoreline. The rescue worker then got down on his belly and used ice picks to trek across the lake. The firefighter grabbed the person out of the water from behind, and they were pulled to safety.
This heavy duty saw is cut from diamonds, so the blade is super sharp, Flaherty says. The firefighters usually use it to saw through concrete and metal walls during building collapses.
Most saws with diamond blades come in three different sizes, with the diameters of the blades ranging from 12 to 16 inches. They saw through the thickest of walls, and last up to 100 times longer than the standard rotary saws you'd find in most hardware stores.
The Company often uses tiny saws when people get their fingers stuck in rings and sewing machines, Flaherty says. The blades measure about one to two inches in diameter.
When someone is impaled on a fence, this saw can also cut away metal that might be near the person's face. Since it's so small, the firefighters can be more detail-oriented in their rescues.
Flaherty adds, however, that the most important tools used in any emergency situation are the firefighters themselves.
'If we put our minds together, we can solve any problem,' he says. 'If someone is stuck somewhere, we have to go get them, no matter where it is. People put themselves in some crazy situations, and we have to make it right.'
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