Grain bin rescue panels donated

Mindy Carls
On Tuesday, July 13, area firefighters trained with the Great Wall of Rescue panels for use with farmers trapped in grain bins. After placing panels to encircle Kewanee City firefighter Jake Forney, another Kewanee City firefighter, Rob Horn, left, steadies the panels while Kewanee Community firefighter Ellis Ericson, right, uses a drill to power an auger to remove grain inside the panels. Forney had been buried in grain up to his waist for the demonstration. The training was at Gold Star FS Germans Corner elevator, rural Kewanee.

Paul Stevenson hopes the Kewanee Community Fire Department places its newest equipment in a corner and allows it to gather dust.

Stevenson coordinates Nationwide Insurance’s Grain Bin Safety Week, held this year from Feb. 21-27 though grain bin safety occupies much more than a week out of the year.

On Tuesday, July 13, he was at Germans Corner Elevator, a Gold Star FS facility in rural Kewanee, to present a grain bin rescue tube, an auger and a pipe to the Kewanee Community Fire Department.

Kewanee Community invited neighboring fire departments to attend the training conducted by Jeff Sanderfield, a 24-year veteran of the Dubuque Fire Department who provides sessions with support from Northeast Iowa Community College and the National Education Center for Agricultural Safety.

Departments invited were Kewanee City, Bishop Hill, Galva, Oxford, Clover, Atkinson, Cambridge and Annawan.

The tube actually consists of six aluminum panels that can be assembled to form a circle around a farmer or a co-op employee trapped in the middle of the bin, or a half-circle if the farmer is against one side, or a wall.

Two steps on the outside of each panel allow rescuers to use their weight to push the panels into grain.

Once rescuers have placed the panels around the trapped person, they can lower an auger into the tube and use it to remove grain. A drill powers the auger. Ideally, rescuers use a brushless drill that does not spark when the trigger is pulled. Sparks can ignite grain dust.

Two steps on the inside of each panel help the trapped person climb out if they are able.

Rescues take more than three hours on average.

Nationwide Insurance takes applications for the rescue tubes from Jan. 1 through April 30, and selects 35 fire departments to receive them. The insurance company works with corporate sponsors such as GROWMARK to provide even more rescue tubes to fire departments such as Kewanee Community.

Fifty-two or 53 grain tubes will be donated this year, Stevenson said. Altogether, since 2014 Nationwide and partners have given out 202 grain tubes in 30 states.

KC Supply in Shannon, Ill., manufactures hundreds of panels every year.

The best way to prevent dying in grain bins is never to go in one, Stevenson emphasized. But the reality is that farmers can and do go in, and they can get trapped in less than 500 bushels of grain. They can be buried to their waists in 15 seconds and completely engulfed in 30 seconds.

Sanderfield explained numerous aspects of grain bin rescue, such as cutting V’s in the sides of a bin to let grain pour out, where to anchor ropes for the trapped person and the rescuers and how to get the rescued person to the ground.

Using the rescue tubes, firefighters have saved four lives.

“Four people got to go home to their families,” Stevenson said.

If someone does get trapped, Kewanee Community and other fire departments will be ready to mount a rescue. Following up on Stevenson’s comment that he hoped the new equipment gathered dust in a corner, Sanderfield recommended the tube and auger be stored on one of the trucks to avoid delays if they are ever needed.

For more information about the panels, visit https://www.greatwallofrescue.com/. For the National Education Center for Agricultural Center, go to www.necasag.org or see the Facebook page.

Also, Nationwide has a grainbinsafetyweek.com site.

Anyone can nominate their fire department for a rescue tube at https://www.nationwide.com/lc/resources/farm-and-agribusiness/articles/grain-bin-safety-week