Pedal Pulling

SUBJECT: Pedal Pulling

TOPIC: Movement of a Brake Pedal

OBJECTIVE: Demonstrate movement of a brake pedal by use of hand tools and manual effort.

TASK: Given an acquired vehicle and the simulation of a driver with their foot trapped by a brake pedal, the rescue crew will use a hand tool such as a rope or flat webbing to manually move the pedal.

The crash was a head-on collision. On the red car, doors jam and the metal structure of the vehicle crumples as it is designed. At the pickup truck, it appears that only the front bumper, hood and fenders are damaged. It's obvious, though, that the driver is hurt.

As the challenges of the scene are dealt with, the officer in charge establishes command and commits the department's hydraulic rescue tools to the auto; now referred to as the "Auto Division." It looks worse off than the pickup and there are two occupants trapped inside.

As the rescue crews start to work, it's hard to tell exactly how serious the entrapment is. Once the roof is off and both doors are torn down on the driver's side, medical crews get their first clear look at the victim's legs and feet. They're going to have to jack the dash or possibly roll it to get the dash and firewall off the trapped driver. Rapid extrication will get the front passenger free.

Over at the other vehicle, identified by command as the "Pickup Division," the driver's front door comes open with a little extra tugging effort and the rear-hinged third door opens. The driver is complaining of lower leg pain. A glance down toward the floorboards shows that the front-end impact must have pushed the engine and transmission rearward more than originally thought. It's evident that the floorpan has crumpled and, unfortunately, the driver's right foot is twisted and pinned beneath the brake pedal.

All the Pickup Division rescue crew has to do is move the pedal upward or sideways to get the driver's foot free. The challenge is that the big tools are being used over at the Auto Division.

What would you do? Do you know how to move a brake pedal off a victim's foot without use of sophisticated and powerful hydraulic rescue tools?

This edition of the University of Extrication reviews two simple yet effective manual techniques for pedal movement: pedal pull or pedal lift. By use of a rope, strap or in this particular case flat webbing, a rescue team can quickly secure the line to the pedal and lift it upward or pull it sideways to free the victim.

Part of the preparation for either of these manual techniques requires that a team member determine which side of the steering column the shaft of the brake pedal lies on. A pedal pull, which moves the pedal either left or right, will only move a pedal away from the steering column shaft. If the pedal shaft is on the left of the steering column, the pedal can only be pulled to the left for example.

The pedal lift technique moves the pedal straight upward. It doesn't matter which side the pedal shaft is in relation to the steering column when lifting. When you try this for yourself, it will become clear to you. You'll see that pedal pulling cannot move or bend a pedal toward or against the steering column. So, the rule is, pull the pedal up or pull it away from the column.

Either pedal movement technique requires that the strapping be secured around the shaft of the brake pedal first. If you want to move the pedal off to the left, then the line is simply positioned out the driver's door opening. The team applies a strong, steady pulling effort until the shaft bends within its' mounting bracket. Remember, a side pull must be designed to move the shaft of the pedal away from the steering column.

The brake pedal can also be lifted upward by the rescue team standing in exactly the same position. The difference is that after the strap is secured to the shaft, it is then run underneath the footpad if possible and brought upward through the ring of the steering wheel. As the rescue team pulls on the webbing, the members overpower a small cylinder assembly on the brake pedal shaft itself. When it fails, the brake pedal will simply pop upward, freeing the victim's foot.

Pedal pulling and pedal lifting are techniques that all rescue teams should be capable of accomplishing. It's mastering the simple, basic techniques such as manual pedal pulling or lifting that can give the rescuers an edge at a rescue incident.

TASK: Given an acquired vehicle and the simulation of a driver with a foot trapped by a brake pedal, the rescue crew will use a hand tool such as a rope or flat webbing to manually move the pedal.

RON MOORE, a Firehouse contributing editor, is a battalion chief and the training officer for the McKinney, TX, Fire Department. He also authors a monthly online article in the "MembersZone" and serves as the Forum Moderator for the extrication section of the website. Moore can be contacted directly at