Highland County’s grain bin rescue devices have been responsible for saving the life of one farmer so far, and led to training for additional rescue scenarios.
Branden Jackman, a firefighter and paramedic who is also the public information officer for the Paint Creek Joint EMS/Fire District, told Hillsboro Rotarians this week that the rescue last year of a Mad River Road farmer happened because of a quick response and a training regimen that was expertly employed at the scene.
Jackman described the rescue last year of local farmer Derald Crago, who had become trapped in a grain bin while off-loading soybeans and had been submerged in the grain up to his armpits. A crust of unstable beans was lodged about 10 feet above his head, and could have become unstable, burying him, said Jackman.
As recounted in a story when the rescue happened in April 2015, within 14 minutes from the time of call units from Paint Creek as well as both trailers from the Grain Bin Rescue Team started arriving on scene. Within nine minutes of fire and rescue personnel arriving, rescuers from the Grain Bin Rescue team entered the bin to assess the situation and see what additional resources would be needed.
Jackman was the team commander and entered the bin first. He was then joined by team member Andy Pridemore. They tossed equipment to Crago and instructed him on how to attach a harness to himself, and then on how to attach a life safety rope to his harness, securing him to the outside of the bin in case the grain shifted.
Ladder trucks had arrived from Paint Creek as well as mutual aid in the form of a tower truck from the Fayetteville Fire Department. About 20 rescue personnel were on the scene. Jackman said the ladder truck is used in this kind of rescue to provide an elevated anchor point for ropes above the bin to allow men and equipment to be placed inside with minimal disturbance to the grain and maximum safety for the victim and rescuers.
The team utilized a Shopvac and hand scoops to start evacuating the grain from inside the tube, with the help of the victim.
“We’ll put you to work,” said Jackman on Tuesday, describing how the victims must assist in their own rescue.
Once the grain level was dropped from chest level to about mid-thigh, Crago was able to free himself from the soybeans and walked from the bin under his own power.
The original goal of the Farm Bureau’s “Farm Rescue Program” was to raise $30,000 for the purchase of two complete trailers stocked with the equipment needed to rescue farmers who become trapped in grain bins. Eventually, about $40,000 in money and supplies was raised, according to Nathan Brown, rescue program committee chairman, in a Times-Gazette story in 2012. The units are stationed at Lynchburg and Leesburg.
The idea for the Highland County Farm Bureau Farm Rescue Program was presented by Brown and Dave Bushelman, Farm Bureau trustee.
Brown was inspired to implement the project after he saw a presentation about grain bin rescues at the Farm Science Review. This topic had become more prevalent due to the rising number of grain-bin-related accidents.
In 2010, 51 workers were engulfed by grain bins, according to the United States Occupational Health and Safety Administration. The Highland County Farm Bureau, emergency response personnel and the Highland County Fire Chief’s Association collaborated on the fundraising initiatives.
Jackman said that the rescue team is no longer called the Grain Bin Rescue team, but instead the Technical Rescue team, since other types of training, including high-angle rescues, have also been incorporated into the program.
Jackman advised caution and following safety training procedures for farmers or others working with grain bins, saying that preventing entrapment is much easier than being rescued. If the fire department is called, “We have to come up with a perfect solution to imperfect problems,” he said.
Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456 or on Twitter @abernathygary.