Rescue workers need special farm training

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WOOSTER, Ohio – When emergency medical and rescue personnel receive a call to respond to a farm accident, their natural instinct is to expect the worst.

“We think about the worst that we could see and if it isn’t that serious, we back off a little bit,” said Alan Griffiths, a captain with the Wooster Township Fire Department.

The first unit on the scene not only needs to assess the situation, but they also need to think about traffic and what other rescue and emergency personnel have been called to the scene as well as what types of special equipment they will need.

That is where programs such as Farmedic Training play a role. The program teaches fire, emergency medical and rescue personnel to respond to the accident in a way that will not only reduce the rate of injuries and death from farm emergencies, but also reduce the possibility of injury and death to rescue personnel.

No farm background. Recently, the Farmedic Provider Course was offered to firefighters, emergency medical and rescue personnel through the Wayne County Fire and Rescue Association’s regional fire school.

“We are running into people with little or no agricultural experience,” said Griffiths, a Farmedic instructor. “Fire departments used to rely heavily on the farming community for volunteers, but now these people are busy with their farming operations and they don’t have time.”

Through area businesses such as the Kidron Auction, Maibach Tractor and Stoller Tractor, the association was able to obtain equipment to give the students hands-on experience in dismantling equipment and extracting victims from over-turned tractors and entanglements in equipment. It also received support from groups such as Wayne County Farm Bureau to purchase resource material for the class.

The two-day class drew 21 participants from Wayne, Holmes, Ashland, Medina and Stark counties who received 16 hours of continuing education credit for their efforts.

Farm tours. Prior to coming to the training class, participants are required to visit a farm in their area and prepare a preplan for the farm. As part of the plan, they walk through the farm with the family and review the buildings, their locations, the type of equipment on the farm, livestock, location of water and gas lines, where to turn off the power and other critical areas.

Lectures, slides and a farm tour made up the first day of the program. The classroom portion included the types of injuries commonly seen in a farm accident, pesticide and chemical hazards, equipment operation, rescue tools and trauma and prehospital care.

The farm tour gives participants a chance to see an actual farming operation, learn about the basics of operating farm equipment, structures, confined areas, livestock and chemical hazards.

Tools of trade. Students spent the second day of the class learning to use hand tools, cutting tools and torches and stabilization techniques such as blocking and cribbing.

Teaching the students how to properly stabilize a piece of equipment is critical particularly when a patient is entangled in a piece of equipment or trapped under an over-turned tractor, Griffiths said.

“They can’t just lift up the equipment, they have to stabilize it before they do anything,” he said. “They are dealing with a whole piece of equipment rather than opening a compartment in a smashed up car. They have to get it off before they can treat the patient.”

Tractors are an obvious concern because of their rollover potential. The most common type of tractor rollover is when the tractor rolls over on its side, but they can roll over backward as well. This happens when the driver is trying to tow or pull something with a chain hitched too high on the tractor.

Other risks. Entanglements can be a challenge for rescue personnel, Griffiths said, because they are dealing with severe trauma type injuries, such as severe crushing, tearing, shredding or twisting type injuries that are compounded by the fact that they have been contaminated by the cause of the accident.

Manure pits, lagoons, grain bins and silos are also potential hazards for farm rescues.

“Anything below grade can be a challenge,” Griffiths said. “It can be as simple as a lack of oxygen or as complex as poisonous gas generated through a fermentation process. Augers and shifting grain can also hamper the rescue efforts.”

Livestock can also be a concern for rescue personnel, because the workers may have little or no experience with animals.

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