KENDALLVILLE ― When farmers falls into a grain bin and the pool of shifting corn kernels and get trapped, it can become life-threatening emergency.
In situations like those, firefighters need to know what to do to help farmers get out safely and quickly.
That’s why local fire departments participated in a training session Saturday afternoon at Kendallville Fire Department Station 1 to learn how to rescue someone trapped inside a grain bin.
The training was provided by Stateline Farm Rescue, a company based in Illinois that provides training to fire stations across the United States.
Mark Baker, owner of Stateline Farm Rescue, said they’ve gone as far as Arkansas and Nebraska to train firefighters.
It’s a real threat, as rural Indiana typically sees a few deaths per year from grain bin accidents. In a heavy farming region like northeast Indiana, having one of those incidents here is always a possibility.
“We were asked to come here and do grain bin rescue training,” Baker said. “They’re going to be doing live entrapment and use grain bin panels to relieve and flow grain as well as auger entrapment training.”
Firefighters from the Kendallville Fire Department and other local departments including Avilla, Topeka, Stroh and Albion participated in Saturday’s training session.
He said the big thing for firefighters today is that they’re getting further removed from agriculture. For firefighters who aren’t or never were farmers, that familiarity with ag equipment is a hurdle to overcome.
“They’re not as proficient and understand what’s going on in the agriculture world, so we try to show them that,” he said.
Firefighters were separated into different groups, each of them doing different training activities.
Baker was showing one group at the grain bin section about how to rescue someone trapped in corn kernels.
The firefighters gathered at top of the grain bin where Baker explained to them about what to use and do when someone is trapped.
One of the firefighters, wearing a harness, was lowered into the corn kernels as a volunteer for the training. He explained to the others about what they need in this situation and began the training of getting the firefighter out.
Baker told the firefighters to use metal panels to create a wall around the person trapped in the bin. That helps to slow down the flow of the corn and keeping the person from sinking even more. They stuck the panels down into the corn and learned what to do next, which is getting the corn around the trapped person out enough to allow them to escape.
Firefighters began using a shovel and even their hardhats to scoop out corn kernels from the tubular wall they made.
They soon got enough kernels out to help the trapped person escape safely and lift him up from the corn.
Another training lesson was for situations when farmers are fully trapped in the grain bin and can’t be lifted out. In this situation, firefighters use a power saw to cut a triangular hole from the outer part of the grain bin to allow large amounts of corn to escape and relieve the entrapped person.
Instructor Brian Larson demonstrated to the firefighters what tools they need for this situation and where to cut on the outer part of the grain bin.
He used a marker to draw an upside down triangle and explained where they need to cut the bin.
Some of the firefighters volunteered to try out the power saw to cut away at the practice bin.
Firefighters had to wear safety glasses while participating since sparks flew in different directions while cutting the metal bin. They then used a large crow bar to open the piece they cut out.
The next training station was taught by Karen Larson, who showed firefighters how to help a person who is entangled in an auger. These situations occur when someone’s leg or arm gets trapped in it and firefighters need to crack open the auger and get the person out of it.
A person’s body can get cut up when trapped in the auger and she explained what they need to do to get that person out safely.
The tools they use to break open the auger included using a large cutter tool to stretch out the part of the auger cut open to help free the person’s body part from it.
They used a dummy the size of a child as an example of how to get a person out from being trapped.
She also showed one group of firefighters about how to treat someone after they have been freed from an auger and treat their wounds.
Although these situations don’t happen often, this type of training has importance to the job of firefighters particularly in rural communities.
Eric Kennedy, training specialist at the Kendallville Fire Department, said this training is important so they have an understanding of what’s happening. If they know how to respond to these types of emergencies firefighters can be prepared and not inadvertently make the situation worse.
“If you turn on the flowing grain, they’re gonna go farther down in,” he said. “It’s important that they at least have an idea of what they’re getting into.”