Much of Polk County is covered in farmland, and grain bin accidents can happen at anytime. Amery and Clear Lake Fire Departments are among 34 fire departments that have been awarded a grain bin safety rescue tube from Nationwide Insurance. The company created the “Nominate Your Fire Department” contest in conjunction with Grain Bin Safety Week, an advocacy program to educate those entering grain bins to implement safe entry procedures and address the lack of specialized resources available to rural fire departments, who are responding to bin entrapments. This year’s campaign brings the totals to nearly 3,000 nominations and awards of grain rescue tubes and hands-on rescue training to 111 fire departments across 26 states since starting the program in 2014. 

The award is an example of supporting agriculture and rural communities. It is a perfect combination of helping keep farmers safe while at the same time supporting the hardworking men and women of smaller fire departments.

Purdue University does a complete data summary each year of these types of rescue incidents or entrapment. According to the university, more than 900 cases of grain engulfment have been reported across the country over the last 50 years. With the fatality rate at more than 60 percent, rural fire departments will do whatever it takes to lower that total.

Grain bin entrapment is a longstanding and growing concern in U.S. agriculture. Grain bins continue to get larger, increasing the possibility that large amounts of stored grain will shift quickly, trapping a person working inside it.

The hope is the equipment never needs to be used but, in the event that something happens, it is important first responders have the equipment available and be properly trained how to use it. The training is crucial because when firefighters know what do in these situations, they have a greater chance at saving someone’s life. 

Dan Neenan from the National Education Center for Ag Safety conducted the training at the Amery Fire Department July 30. The training teaches firefighters and emergency personnel how to rescue someone who is trapped in a confined space, such as corn, wheat or soybeans. Some trainees volunteered to be trapped in a grain bin filled with corn up to their waist, while others volunteered to rescue those in the bin. 

A trailer holds a grain bin, a grain hopper and a metal cutting station. The hopper is open so trainees can see what’s happening. The simulation is very realistic, and presents real challenges of a true grain emergency. 

The rescue tube is a lightweight, aluminum, and panelized system. It can be expanded to the maximum size of the number of panels or you can reduce it, depending on the workspace that you need. The tube will go over someone that is trapped, and it will create separation between the person and the grain. This will lower the chances of suffocation.

“I would like to thank all the people in our community that helped nominate us for this donation. I’d like people to know that we are going to continue to get other pieces of equipment to enhance the grain bin rescue operations.  We still need the rescue auger, four body harnesses and life line ropes,” said Fire Chief Dale Koehler.

If you went into a bin 10 years ago and you became trapped, there was a 70 percent chance that you were not coming out alive. Now, with the addition of grain rescue tools, and departments being trained, your chances of survival are much better.

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