WEST ALEXANDRIA — The West Alexandria Fire Department, along with the Eaton Fire Division and Lewisburg Fire Department participated in a grain bin rescue training exercise on Monday, Aug. 24.
The exercise was held at Brubaker Grain in West Alexandria, as the three departments trained a approximately 30 firefighters and EMS members in grain bin rescue safety techniques.
The safety training has never been done in Preble County to the level the three departments had on this evening. Eaton Fire brought their ladder truck and members of the three departments trained for numerous situations using the ladder truck and grain bins or wagons on site.
West Alexandria Fire Chief Jeff Shafer said the training is important for Preble County as the county has such a large farming community and many of his firefighters had not received hands-on training for this particular recuse technique.
For the simulation, the rescue personnel used a gravity bin wagon and placed a person who was partially submerged in the grain so those training could safely simulate a situation in which a person was trapped in a grain bin.
Shafer said in this instance the department would use a safety tube to create a retaining wall between the victim and the grain. Once the wall has been placed, rescuers would provide the victim with oxygen as breathing can be difficult if surrounded by the grain. Once the victim is safely secured a harness would then lift them from the bin and to safety.
The departments also simulated proper grain bin opening guidelines in rescue attempts. Shafer explained how proper technique has rescuers cut two triangular holes adjacent to each other simultaneously at the bottom of the bin. They then move to the other sides and repeat the process, creating a total of four holes, on 12 o’clock, 6 o’clock, 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock.
This process allows the grain to be released from the bin equally and creates an even amount of pressure being released, something Shafer said is key to the victims’ safety and to prevent the bin from collapsing.
One thing that was key for Shafer was members of his department had to concentrate on making sure they too did not get trapped in the grain. The training required firefighters to learn how to distribute their weight evenly by using plank like boards so they could safely move inside the bin without creating more risk for the victim or themselves.
The departments also got training in high-rise rescues by using catwalks between two grain bins. Shafer explained they allowed firefighters do things on their own first, allowing them to correct mistakes for the second, creating a more hands-on and visual training.
Personnel used rescue dummy firefighters to practice proper loading and securing techniques when placing a victim in the bucket of a ladder truck from dangerous heights.
Shafer described the training as excellent, saying Eaton Fire Chief Jack Royer excels in training.
“Jack does such a great job in training, my guys learn so much from him every time we train with them. I really can’t thank him enough for making this such a successful training for us.”
Shafer also said he hopes the departments will be able to host a countywide training sometime this fall so all departments in the county can receive extensive grain bin rescue training.
While grain bin rescues are rare in Preble County — Shafer said off the top of his head he believes the last one in Preble County was in Verona in the ’90s — they are often very dangerous situations.
Interesting facts about grain rescues provided by grainent.com and Shafer:
• Anyone who is partially submerged in grain inside a storage tank should be able to be rescued with little or no injury.
• 92 percent of fully-submerged victims do not survive with 60 percent of would-be rescuers contributing to the fatalities.
Some steps to take by farmers:
• Always use safety harnesses and equipment when working near open grain bins.
• If someone falls, always shut off all grain moving machinery, contact emergency services and ventilate the bin using the drying fan without activating the heat source if possible.
Reach Austin Schmidt at 937-683-4062 or on Twitter @aschmidt_RH.