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What Is an Emergency Hammer?

By C. Mitchell
Updated May 23, 2024
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An emergency hammer is a small tool commonly kept in cars, trains, and buses to help passengers escape in case of an accident. The hammers are designed to be compact enough to stow in a glove box or underneath a seat but strong enough to break through glass. Some emergency hammers also come with small razors or scissors attached to cut through tangled seat belts.

The main goal of an emergency hammer, also sometimes called a rescue hammer, is to provide passengers trapped in auto or rail accidents with a means of escape. If a train derails and the doors will no longer open, for instance, passengers with access to an emergency hammer can break through windows in order to escape. Similarly, a driver who is trapped in a mangled car can use an emergency hammer to break through the side window and get out of danger.

Medics and emergency care providers usually recommend that injured people remain in their vehicles in case of an accident, but this is not always practicable. Passengers trapped in a bus that has caught fire, or a driver whose car is sinking into the water may not have any time to wait. The emergency hammer safety device is intended for use in situations like these.

In many places, local laws require a certain number of emergency hammers to be on board any vehicle used for public transportation. This can include trains, subways, buses, and even taxis, depending on the jurisdiction. The presence of emergency hammers, much like the ready availability of fire extinguishers, is generally understood to be a common-sense transport safety precaution.

Emergency hammers in public transportation settings are usually mounted in protective cases, and are marked with signs and placards for easy identification in a crisis. The hammers are designed to break through glass, but they are not usually sharp. In many respects, this is to deter abuse from unruly passengers, and to prevent the hammers from being used as assault weapons. Tampering with a public transportation emergency hammer is usually punishable by law. Sometimes, even opening the hammer’s case will trigger an alarm to alert the driver or conductor.

A hammer designed for use in a personal vehicle often has more features. It is common for these kinds of hammers to include razor blades for cutting through seat belts, and sometimes even wrenches capable of prying apart tough metal doors. Most personal emergency hammers are designed to fit unobtrusively within a car’s glove compartment, or else tuck underneath the driver or passenger’s seat.

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