SIDNEY — Sidney Firefighter Jordan Stemen found himself trapped up to his chest in dry, shelled corn Friday afternoon, June 18. Several other members of the Sidney Fire & Emergency Services worked to keep him calm and quickly install an aluminum tube around him to quickly remove the corn and then him from the storage bin he was stuck within. — Thankfully, it was just practice.
“We are conducting this grain technical rescue training for the next three days to prepare for a grain rescue in the simulator trailer parked out back each day,” Sidney Fire Department’s Assistant Chief Eric Barhorst said Thursday morning.
As a result of a partnership with The Ohio State University and the Ohio Fire Academy, members of Shelby County fire departments received training in a mobile Grain CART (Comprehensive Agricultural Rescue Trailer) simulator June 17-19 in the back/side lot of Sidney Fire Department’s Station 1 on Poplar Road.
The Grain CART, which contains two scaled down versions of a storage bin full of shelled corn, was built by five OSU Extension Ag seniors as their “capstone project,” said Ohio Fire Academy instructor Andy Bauer, of Urbana. Bauer is an expert in the commercial grain business and is retired from Heritage Cooperative where he managed the company’s grain facility.
The purpose of the project was to build a state-of-the-art mobile grain bin rescue training unit for direct delivery training and outreach education, according the The Ohio State Extension’s website.
When there is a malfunction with a storage bin moving grain, sometimes a farmer may accidentally fall in, or get trapped after they go inside, when trying to fix the problem, said Ohio Fire Academy instructor/Wauseon Fire Chief Rick Sluder.
In flowing grain, the farmer may be drawn down into the funnel and become entrapped. Grain may also crust or bridge on the top, leaving a void underneath, said OSU’s website. The grain/corn can rapidly trap a person in seconds up to their knees before they are unable to get out on their own.
During the hands-on training Friday, Stemen waited inside the Grain CART as firefighters first began to communicate with him to reassure and calm him. Next they used long probes to feel around in the corn for where his feet were located. In some other situations, Sluder said, a victim may be unconscious or completely buried in the corn/grain. The probes help first responders plot where the victim is, or parts of their body are located. Then, rescuers began to assemble a cofferdam tube around Stemen to reduce the amount of corn they needed to remove to help speed up the rescue process. Finally firefighters used a mechanical pump to draw the corn out of the tube, and if the victim is conscious, they can then climb out on the steps inside the tubing.
“The amount of time it takes to rescue a person is based upon the size of the individual and size of the (storage) bin,” said Bauer. “It takes the longest to set up. It could take 1 to 2 hours to set up, but only 30 minutes to rescue him (after the tubing is in place).”
“The longest most time consuming part, is to get it all in place,” said Jim O’Connor, Ohio Fire Academy instructor, who is also a firefighter with the Columbus Fire Department, during training. “The tube put in place is like a little bin just for (the victim).”
Fellow Ohio Fire Academy instructor/Wauseon Fire Chief Rick Sluder explained that a buried or an unconscious victim is the hardest to get out. He said the prods are necessary to help located them and then all of the corn around them must be removed.
Each day, around a dozen students trained from area fire departments, first in the classroom for a couple of hours in the morning, and then with hands-on training in the afternoon for several hours to get a real life feel for the situation.
In the past Sidney Department of Fire & Emergency Services trained with an Ohio Fire Academy trailer fire truck driving simulator in a Mobile Driving Simulation Lab next to the Shelby County EMA building.
Use of the simulator and training was free for the Shelby County fire departments. The Ohio Fire Academy has five field trailers with different aspects of technical training, with about 25-30 different field training officers who take turns teaching across Ohio, Sluder said.
“It was a great out-reach program through the Ohio Fire Academy,” Barhorst said after training concluded. “And the trailer made it possible to do the training behind Station 1, rather than having to go to a farm.”
Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.