By Celeste Baumgartner
CLARKSVILLE, Ohio – The Clinton-Warren Joint Fire and Rescue District recently installed a grain bin simulator that they can use to train their members and other fire departments, emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and farmers for grain bin rescues.
It began when the Ohio Corn and Wheat Growers Association held a meeting at the fire department. John Settlemyre, a board member, asked Fire Chief Bob Wysong if his department had a grain rescue tube to aid in rescuing victims engulfed in grain. They had applied for one but did not receive it.
“We’d like to take it a step further and have a grain bin simulator where we can train,” Wysong said. “And that’s how it got started.”
Settlemyre said, “I got onto the Ohio Corn and Wheat Growers Board in March 2019. I wanted to have a project that was sort of a legacy project, something that would be around after my term was over. I approached my fire chief, who I’ve known for 40 years. He’s done a lot of amazing things for our family and our farm.”
Wysong showed Settlemyre photos of the Ohio State University’s mobile grain bin safety unit, which had been used for a training session at the fire department. The project was off and running.
“I approached our millwright (Aaron Baldwin. Diversified Industrial Service, Leesburg, Ohio), who has helped us over the years on some big projects. He donated the two tanks and a small elevator leg that he had taken down from a previous job. We refurbished it, and he donated that and the labor to install it.”
Settlemyre received about $50,000 in cash donations from a couple of grain companies. The millwright’s donations were probably worth $35,000.
“It took us about a year and a half,” Settlemyre said. “COVID kind of slowed us down. We had our grand opening on Sept. 8.”
The unit consists of two bins, one for storing the grain and the other is like a regular grain bin on a farm, plus a grain leg, Wysong said. It looks like the actual setup on a farm.
“It’s not huge,” Wysong said. “It’s a small version, but it’s great for training. We fill up the one that is like a regular grain bin and then actually put people down in it. The bottom of the bin has a safety screen, so they can only go so far. But it simulates being stuck in a grain bin with grain around you.”
The rescue people then put the grain tube around the trapped person to keep the grain from going any further around them and getting tighter. Once the tube is around them, the rescuers can start taking the grain out until the person can be pulled out or pull themself out.
The Clinton-Warren Joint Fire and Rescue District has not had any recent grain bin rescues, but two boys died at the local feed mill years back. The county has had several successful grain bin rescues using the rescue tube.
The fire department is developing a class with several training levels. Next spring, they hope to offer the class with certification to other fire departments, EMTs, farmers and whoever is interested.
According to researchers at Purdue University, more than 900 cases of grain engulfment have been reported, with a fatality rate of 62 percent, in the past 50 years. In 2010, at least 26 U.S. workers were killed in grain engulfment accidents.