Some members of Harrington Volunteer Fire Company learned what it feels like to be trapped in a grain silo up to their waist in corn July 11.
Other members were trained in how to use a grain bin rescue tube to safely get a victim out. The department was awarded a grain bin rescue tube, a portable cordless drill-powered grain auger and specialized training from Dan Neenan, director of the National Education Center for Agricultural Safety.
The equipment and training have been offered for six years as a prize in a Nominate Your Fire Department Contest hosted by Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company in collaboration with industry leaders and agricultural professionals. Bridgeville Fire Department was one of the winners in 2017.
Of the 77 units distributed as of last year, four have been used to rescue someone.
When Delaware Farm Bureau learned that Nationwide had opened its program up to those who could raise $5,000 for the equipment and training, officers took steps to secure the lifesaving equipment for a fire department in Kent County.
Billy Staples, a Nationwide agent with an office in Harrington, agreed to put up half of the necessary funding. Staples said, “If we can help save or protect one life, then that benefit is much greater than the investment in the equipment. We are happy to help a community and a way of life that does so much for us.”
T.J. Schiff of Schiff Farms Inc. in Harrington agreed to provide the other $2,500. Schiff Farms has several grain silos at its location on Route 13 and had several employees on hand for the training at the fire company. “I hope my guys get the idea of what risk is and that they will be scared to death. And I hope this tube gathers dust,” Schiff said.
Delaware Ag Secretary Michael Scuse said, “I’m just as guilty as anyone of crawling into a grain bin. This is something that is desperately needed. I hope we never have to use it, but if it’s needed, it’s there.”
Neenan brought a state-of-the-art grain entrapment simulator and rescue tube from Iowa to conduct the training session. He emphasized that one should never enter a grain bin when grain is moving and should use the lock out, tag out system to prevent equipment from being turned on accidentally. He added there should always be someone on the outside whose sole responsibility is to watch the person inside the tank.
“It takes 15 seconds to sink to your knees with an auger going,” he said. “In 30 seconds, you can be in up to your waist.”
He cautioned that no one should try to use mechanical devices such as a harness to pull a victim out of grain.
The rescue tube comes in 25-pound panels which are interlocked in a circle around the victim. Grain is then removed from inside the tube. If the victim is conscious, he can help. A small, portable grain auger powered by a cordless, brushless drill can help empty the grain more quickly.
Once the grain is down below the knees, a conscious victim can work his way out. Rescued victims should be taken to a hospital for evaluation, Neenan warned, even if they insist they are fine. Effects of crush and compartment syndrome may appear even an hour later and can be fatal.
Neenan also discussed how and where to cut holes in the side of a grain bin if someone is completely submerged in grain. There is also a right way and a wrong way to move the spilled grain away from the area.
He predicted that this year will be a bad year for grain engulfment in some areas of the country because of flooding. Wet grain gets moldy and clumps, clogging the auger.