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franklin county times

RFD hosts grain bin entrapment rescue training

A training class at Russellville Fire Station 1 provided the opportunity to learn about and practice proper grain bin rescue techniques. The class consisted of a rescue training slideshow and presentation detailing all the methods used and why, followed by a live grain bin entrapment simulation.

The training, held Feb. 16, was provided and conducted by Mississippi grain bin safety specialists and community partners. Instructors and participants alike said it’s something they hope is never needed, but they’re grateful for the opportunity to be prepared in case a situation arises.

“Grain bin accidents largely impact farm families and communities,” explained Franklin County Extension coordinator Katernia Cole Coffey. “Members from a number of county organizations came together to take part in this preventive program in order to be well-equipped to properly conduct a rescue should it be necessary.”

Training attendees included representatives from the Alabama Fire College, Blue Springs Fire Department, Phil Campbell Rescue Squad, Franklin County EMA, Gravel Hill Fire Department, Russellville Fire Department, Winston County EMA, Franklin and Lauderdale County Extensions, Lauderdale County Soil and Water Conservation and Mar-Jac Poultry.

Representatives from the Mississippi Farm Bureau conducted the training. “It’s important to be well-prepared for the safety of all concerned,” explained senior safety specialist John Hubbard.

“Some areas don’t have a large grain bin presence,” added Mississippi Farm Bureau safety specialist Benton Moseley, “but if there’s even one in the area, knowing what to do could be crucial.”

Moseley said farmers are encouraged to wear a harness and have a spotter before going into a bin. “Prevention is certainly preferable, but proper extrication training is vital for safe removal.”

The class included detailed explanations of specialty equipment and correct methods to promote a safe rescue attempt, followed by getting to try it out firsthand.

Blue Springs firefighter Blake Mason volunteered to serve in the role of entrapped person in the live simulation. While the simulated rescue took about 20 minutes, specialists explained a real-life rescue could take three to four hours. The simulation took place under ideal conditions; however, real-life grain bin emergencies can involve all kinds of complications.

A number of factors are critical to take into consideration in grain bin entrapment rescue attempts. Moseley said a person chest-deep in grain can be subjected to up to 600 pounds of pressure.

“You can’t just pull someone up because it could rip a body part off,” Mosely explained. “It’s also important to use brushless equipment, so there are no sparks involved, in order to help prevent a possible dust explosion. Grain dust is extremely flammable.”

In short, rescuers work to secure the area around the person by building a barrier around them with rescue tubes, followed by removing the grain inside that area with a rescue auger, to relieve the pressure.

“That frees up the person,” explained Moseley. “The part we don’t like but have to talk about is the worst-case scenario of a person being fully submerged in the grain. It’s important to know which bin they’re in, and we don’t always know how long they’ve been in there.”

He said between two to four V-shaped cuts would be made in the side of the bin, in such an instance. “If we only cut one side, that would pull the grain to one side, and the bin would collapse.”

Once enough grain flows out and rescuers can see the person, the grain flow is stopped. At that point, the rescue tube would be used to remove the victim. “We hope it’s not just a body recovery,” said Moseley.

“We tell farmers to put a shirt over their nose and mouth or their hat – something to buy them some time,” Moseley added. But the best safety measure? “It’s so important to have a spotter. With grain silos being enclosed and all metal, there’s not much cellular reception.”

Russellville firefighter Sgt. Andy DeVaney applauded the training as thorough and noted there’s no such thing as too much preparation. “I’m glad we had the opportunity to go through this and learn about all the factors, proper tools and techniques for safety.”

“The training was outstanding,” agreed Franklin County EMA Director and Blue Springs Fire Chief Mary Glass. “I’m not aware of this opportunity being offered in Franklin County before. The instructors did a wonderful job, and we had great participation.”

Glass noted this training could prove life-saving on local farms as well as industrial sites, like the Mar-Jac feed mill in Spruce Pine and Sunshine Mills in Red Bay.

“Now that some of us have had the training,” she said, “we will be capable of using the proper safety methods to go about a rescue.”

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