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Anatomy of a Street Sweeper Rescue Effort

Because sweeper entrapments are rare, when they do occur they often task the efforts of rescue crews.

by Mark J. McLees
The rear sweeper brush was removed, permitting rescuers to extricate the victim.

In the early morning of August 10, Rescue 1 and Engine Company 6 of the Syracuse, NY, Fire Department were dispatched to a reported car-pedestrian accident. What they found upon their arrival posed a challenge not addressed in any textbook. Apparently, a woman had been run over and picked up by the street sweeper. Upon arrival, they found the victim was conscious and trapped inside the stopped Elgin Pelican. Their seemingly impossible task was to get her out.

A Department of Public Works supervisor at the scene called for an assist from a D.P.W. mechanic. Utilizing the mechanic's knowledge of the sweeper, rescue company members determined the fastest and safest way to access the victim. The Pelican's hopper is located in the front of the machine, and the victim was trapped at the top point where the conveyer belt travels over the top roller into the hopper.

Using their pneumatic impact wrench, the rescue team first removed the sweeper's main broom. After the broom was off, rescuers were able to get enough working room to evaluate the remaining obstacles entrapping the victim. The next problem was releasing the rubber conveyer belt that carries the collected debris into the hopper.

A sharp knife was used to slice all the way across the
rubber conveyor belt at one end of the ribs.

Rescue company members used a knife to cut the rubber belt at the lower roller assembly. By design, this belt is capable of running in reverse if the motor is operating, however it was clear to the rescuers that restarting the motor in order to reverse the action of the sweeper was not a safe alternative during a rescue involving a viable patient. However, once the belt was cut, the rescuers were able to slowly pull the belt in reverse by hand to free the victim.

Because of the 'can-do' attitude of the rescue company members, the extrication went rapidly and without further injury to the victim.

Because entrapments such as this are so unique, rescues are made more difficult because there has been no pre-planning for them. In situations like this, the mechanical abilities of rescue company members become extremely valuable.

Reprinted with permission of Firehouse Magazine 1999. Visit them online at For subscription information, you may reach them by calling 1-800-825-8577.

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