WOOSTER, Ohio — Grain entrapments are not a common occurrence in John Fitzpatrick’s four-county region, but he recognizes just how quickly accidents can happen on the farm.
As an Ohio Farm Bureau organization director for Ashland, Wayne, Holmes and Medina counties, Fitzpatrick was happy to present equipment to local fire departments to handle farm accidents. With the help of the Trent Insurance Group, a Nationwide Insurance affiliate, the Wayne County Farm Bureau was able to give four local fire departments grain bin rescue tubes.
“It used to be, by the time a squad arrived (at the scene), it became more of a recovery than a rescue,” said Fitzpatrick. Now, with many farmers carrying cell phones on them and rescue tubes stationed at various departments, firefighters can respond more quickly.
Apple Creek Volunteer Fire Department, Orrville Fire Department, Town and Country Fire Department (West Salem) and Clinton Township Volunteer Fire Department (Shreve) each received a donated tube, making six rescue units total in Wayne County. Smithville and New Pittsburg Fire Departments also have rescue tubes.
The presentation of the tubes completes a joint Farm Bureau effort in Ashland, Holmes, Medina and Wayne counties to strategically place the equipment within minutes of every grain farmer in those four counties.
When a person becomes trapped in a grain bin or gravity wagon, they begin to sink into the grain, similar to being stuck in quicksand.
Pressure from the grain pressing against the body makes it hard for the person to breathe, causing them to suffocate.
The five-panel, aluminum rescue tube can be quickly assembled, making it easy for the rescue team to get it around the victim. Once assembled, the tube is put over the victim and pushed down into the grain, creating a dam that prevents the grain from continuing to flow around the person.
An auger, powered by a drill, is positioned on top of the tube to push the grain out of the tube and relieve the pressure, explained Fitzpatrick. Once the pressure and grain is removed from the tube, the person can be pulled to safety.
Unfortunately, many local fire department budgets are tight and equipment like grain rescue tubes are not placed high on the priority list.
“For us, it’s a piece of equipment that is seldom used, that I probably wouldn’t budget for on my own because of the cost,” said Bob Ballentine, chief of the Orrville Fire Department.
Fitzpatrick noted a rescue tube costs around $2,000 to purchase.
“It’s a low response — they don’t come up very often — but it’s a high risk thing when it does happen, so to have the proper equipment to address that and help save that life is going to be a great plus for the whole county.”
While Ballentine said they have never had to deal with a grain bin rescue in their department, Lois Welch, chief of the Town and Country Fire Department, has.
“We (had a grain bin rescue) about 25 years ago, and at that time these (rescue tubes) were not invented. We used plywood and had to drain the corn out of the bin to get the person out, and he did survive.”
David Compston, of the Apple Creek, East Union Township Fire Department, said he has not had to deal with a grain bin rescue in his department but, “right now our area farmers are getting out of dairying and getting into crops.”
He understands the high risk involved with grain farming and is glad to have the equipment to handle an entrapment situation.
The Apple Creek Fire Department and Kidron Fire Department are a part of a trench rescue team and Compston said it will be beneficial to have equipment like this along with the trench rescue equipment.
Mike Kauffman, Wayne County Farm Bureau president, added, it’s not just grain bins that pose a risk, but large grain carts as well.
“We’re seeing more and more, the use of the large grain carts transporting grain from field to semi,” said Kauffman.
Paul Trent, of Trent Insurance said, “when John approached us about contributing to the project we said ‘whatever we can do to help’.”
As a Nationwide affiliate, Nationwide Agribusiness is the largest writer of farm insurance, said Trent,
“Farming is one of the highest safety risk (occupations),” said Kauffman. “I am looking forward to seeing how the fire departments use them.”
Although both Kauffman and Fitzpatrick agreed, “We hope they never have to use them.”
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