Peace of Mind During Harvest

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Grain bin rescue tubes help rural fire departments keep communities safe

11.21.16
When a person is stuck up to their knees in kernels of corn — or wheat or soybeans — it takes approximately 300 pounds of pressure to pull them out. Up to their midriff — that requires more than 600 pounds of pressure. It’s well beyond any human’s strength to extract themselves and rescues require specialized equipment.  
 
Grain bin safety is top of mind during harvest season. When a farmer needs to climb into a grain bin to break up crusting corn or clear a clog, he or she might be standing on 40,000 bushels of material. When a sloping wall of that magnitude shifts, the collapse is immediate.
 
The USDA WASDE is forecasting the largest corn harvest ever in 2016, and farmers are storing more of their harvests on farm than in years past. That means more opportunities for something to go wrong with the flow of grain. Purdue University recorded 59 grain entrapments and 26 deaths in 2010, a small but not insignificant portion of the 265 farm deaths in a typical year. 
 
When a rural fire department gets a call about a grain entrapment, it may not have the special equipment — grain bin rescue tubes — they need. Larger departments that do have the equipment may be an hour or more away. To shorten response times and protect farmers, Farm Credit Mid-America donated nine rescue tubes to rural fire departments across Indiana.  

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Isaac Pile, a fire fighter with the Marietta Volunteer Fire Department in central Indiana, heads up the grain bin safety initiative in his area. His team received a rescue tube from Farm Credit.
 
“It’s really going to mean a lot. It’s going to be a lot safer,” he said. “We enter grain bins almost on a daily basis because of maintenance issues. We know we should take safety precautions, but sometimes we get in a hurry and don’t.”
 
Pile described the rescue tube as a low-tech but powerful piece of equipment. “It’s a four-piece tube made of aluminum. It’s lightweight so we can get it to the top of the bin and drop it in,” he said. “We put the pieces around the person and snap them together.”  An auger removes the grain inside the tube allowing the person to climb up and out of danger. He’s already planning training for 24 people around his county. While grain entrapment has been a problem as long as grain has been stored this way, Pile said he sees more danger around modern farming. 
 
“Everything has gotten bigger,” he said. “When I was a kid we used to move grain around with 100- to 200-bushel wagons. Now we use 1,000 bushel wagons. We had 5,000-bushel bins on our farm and today our grain bins are 40,000 bushels. Also, there’s a lot more on-farm storage today.” 
 
Having the rescue tube? “That’s going to be a big thing for our community,” he said. “It gives us more tools in our toolbox and peace of mind knowing that we won’t have to wait 40 minutes for a rescue.”
 

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