Farming is the No. 1 industry in Sussex County, yet first responders have limited training dealing with farm-specific accidents.
As of this week, that has changed. Following a year of planning, Sussex County Emergency Medical Services, county fire departments, the Delaware State Police aviation unit and Sussex County Technical Rescue personnel have received training coordinated by Rescue Tech, which specializes in agricultural-related rescues.
First responders spent an entire day participating in five scenarios including an overturned tractor and auger, tractor shaft, grain and corn picker simulated accidents. In each scenario, personnel had to extricate “victims” and assess their injuries.
The scenarios, using real farm equipment and rescue dummies, took place over five days at the county's Wolfe Neck Regional Wastewater Treatment Facility off Wolfe Neck Road between Lewes and Rehoboth Beach.
“There is a focus on medical skills because these accidents tend to be longer and more devastating accidents,” said Rescue Tech owner Eric Rickenbach of Rehrersburg, Pa.
“Sussex EMS have seen these types of incidents over the past few years and there is a need for this type of training,” said trainer Richard Garber.
Each year in the United States, 400 to 600 farmers are killed while working; 33% of all farm workers suffer nonfatal injuries and 3% are permanently disabled.
It was a chance for paramedics to work with the Sussex County Technical Rescue Team, which comprises firefighters from throughout the county who respond to incidents involving structural collapse, big rigs including grain mills, trenches and those in confined spaces.
The team is funded by Sussex County Firefighters Association, Sussex County Council and Delaware Emergency Management Agency.
Sussex EMS Education Coordinator Matt Troutman said the week's training is one in a series of ongoing training excercises for first responders. Previous training was completed in aviation (2018) and water (2021) rescues. More than 200 first responders took part in this year's training.
Funding came from a DEMA reimbursement grant with Sussex County.