Agriculture rescue training

Local first responders received some valuable training on rescuing someone who may become trapped in a grain storage bin Sunday afternoon, thanks to a unique piece of equipment developed by Ohio State University students in partnership with the Ohio Fire Academy.

The CART (Comprehensive Agriculture Rescue Trailer), a 40-foot flatbed trailer equipped with a fully functional grain bin, grain leg and gravity flow grain wagon, was on display at the Washington County Fair Sunday.

“The CART is basically a portable farm, designed by students from the OSU Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering,” explained Mike Bidlack, an instructor with the Ohio Fire Academy who conducted some of the training for area firefighters and rescue personnel Sunday afternoon.

“OSU’s agricultural department uses this equipment for accident prevention training, and we use it to train first responders across the state about grain bin rescue operations,” Bidlack added.

Among the nation’s top grain-producing states, Ohio has approximately 73,700 farmers which, according to the National Safety Council, is one of America’s most dangerous occupations, due to the development of automated equipment that makes farming easier, but also presents a hazard to farm workers.

Grain bins and grain-handling equipment are among those hazards, Bidlack said.

“Grain bin rescues usually involve farmers, farm hands, or even farm family members who may climb into a storage bin of dry corn, for example, which sometimes tends to ‘clump up’ while being processed through the bin,” he said. “While trying to dislodge the clump the farmer can become trapped and pulled down into the bin with the grain where he may suffocate or be crushed.”

Bidlack said several hundred bushels of grain can create an unbelievable amount of pressure on a human body.

“During the hands-on training we actually bury one of the first responders up to the waist or chest in the CART bin with about 300 bushels of corn,” he said. “We use a live person to show them how a rescue is done, and to give them an idea of what it feels like to be trapped in a grain bin.”

The simulator grain bin on the CART is only a fraction of the size of most grain storage bins, some of which Bidlack said are able to hold millions of bushels of corn or other grain products.

Fellow Ohio Fire Academy trainer Dave Torsel also showed the local firefighters a “coffer dam”-a cylindrical piece of equipment that can be placed around someone trapped in the midst of a grain bin to help prevent the victim from being crushed.

Unfortunately Sunday’s rainstorms prevented a live demonstration using real corn in the grain bin because the trainers did not want the grain, donated by Green Valley Co-op, to become damp and unusable.

But fire academy instructor Rick Best, who worked with Marietta Fire Chief C.W. Durham to bring the CART to the county fair, said an alternate date will be scheduled in the future to bring the CART back to Marietta for a live training session during drier weather.

“This is just valuable additional training for us,” Durham said. “Although we don’t have grain bins in the city, our personnel do have confined space rescue training and assist other departments with mutual aid responses. And the first time you have to deal with someone trapped in a grain bin is not the time to begin training.”

He said the CART is a great resource for Washington County’s first responders, several of whom took part in classroom training Sunday morning, then had the hands-on session that afternoon.

Zach Snider, a firefighter with Barlow Township Volunteer Fire Department, agreed.

“There are a lot of grain bins out our way, and there’s a lot of farming industry in this area,” he said. “We haven’t had to rescue anyone from a grain bin, but we did have one catch fire and had to cut out the sides to put the fire out.”

Bidlack said the fire academy also has courses that address handling fires that can occur in various agricultural scenarios.