Steve Kacerski pays attention to grain storage bins because he’s a farmer and a board member of the Trumbull County Farm Bureau.
“There are a lot of them” in Brookfield and Hartford, he said, adding that he has four on his Hartford farm, including two that each hold 40,000 bushels of corn or soybeans.
What people might not realize is grain bins present unique problems in the event of an accident in one. First responders have to work within a tight space; the grain often acts like quicksand, sucking the person lower into the bin as he or she breathes; and most fire departments don’t routinely carry equipment that helps in grain bin rescues.
Brookfield Fire Department now has grain bin rescue equipment thanks to a grant from the county farm bureau and sponsor Daprile Insurance Group/Nationwide of Warren and New Middletown.
The farm bureau has had a goal of improving the readiness of local first responders for agriculture accidents, and has sponsored training and, when the money is available, equipment grants, said Mandy Orahood, organizational director for the Ohio Farm Bureau for the counties in northeast Ohio.
“Our fire departments don’t get a lot of training for ag stuff,” she said. “Our goal is to keep offering training so they know how to handle different situations.”
Brookfield Fire Chief David Masirovits said he learned about the grant program when he attended one of those trainings. For the grant application, he had to write an essay on how his department would use the equipment, and how it would make the equipment available to other departments.
With the main fire station on Route 7 not far from Route 82, Brookfield firefighters, who man the station 24 hours a day, can quickly get on the road to other towns if there is an emergency, Masirovits said.
“This will be available to the entire county,” he said.
Kinsman Volunteer Fire Department also has grain bin rescue equipment, Kacerski said.
The rescue equipment consists of six curved steel panels that, one by one, are placed around the person trapped in the grain and lock together. An auger is then used to remove the grain from around the person until he or she can be lifted out.
“It sounds much easier than it is,” Orahood said.
For one, it’s difficult to get into the bins. “They usually just have a manhole” for access, Kacerski said. Rescue personnel often have to cut into silos to be able to get to the trapped person.
“But, you really have to be careful so the bin doesn’t collapse while they’re in there,” Kacerski said.
Rescue personnel also have to be careful that their efforts, especially when cutting into the bins, doesn’t set the grain on fire, he said.
Once in place, the panels stop cave-ins, and alleviate the pressure on the person trapped, Masirovits said, noting that the grain pressing in on the person elevates blood pressure and causes lactic acid to build up in their muscles. An abundance of lactic acid can cause muscle cramps, nausea, weakness and exhaustion.
The person has to be removed slowly so the body can readjust, and be given bicarbonate of soda to relieve the lactic acid buildup, he said.
A person who is stuck in grain for a long time loses feeling in their extremities, and firefighters have to make sure they are not injuring someone’s arm and legs as they insert the panels, Orahood said.
“It seems cut and dry, but it’s absolutely not,” Masirovits said. “There are so many moving parts that play a large role.”
The equipment costs about $5,000, and training to use it costs another $2,000, Orahood said.
The fire department posted a grain rescue training video on its Facebook page on Nov. 16.