BURIED ALIVE!Local fire departments train on silo rescue simulator
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
A young boy playing hide and seek with friends on his father’s farm decides to climb into the grain silo to hide. As he steps gingerly inside, the buildup of grain around the inner edges gives way beneath him, plunging him into the midst of the pile and virtually burying him alive.
When this type of incident occurs, time is of the essence. Rescue personnel must not only respond quickly but know exactly what to do once they get there.
Last Saturday, emergency personnel from Esko, Wrenshall and Carlton received critical training in rescuing trapped occupants from grain bins and silos. The training, held at Widdes Feed and Farm Supply on Highway 61 west of Esko, was accomplished through the use a special silo rescue simulator provided through South Central College in Mankato, Minn.
“In our area this type of a rescue is considered to be a low probability/high risk rescue,” said Esko Fire Chief Jeff Juntunen, “— one that we are not called upon to perform very often. However, it is a very technical operation and rescue firefighters need to learn it so they don’t become victims as well.”
Juntunen said rescue personnel at Saturday’s training learned of several other applications where they could use these same rescue procedures as well.
“The success of the operation requires several highly trained technical staff members, well versed in ropes and knots, air monitoring and medical skills,” said Juntunen. “It also requires special equipment not carried by all fire departments in the area.”
He added that the Carlton Fire Department has most of the needed equipment for this type of rescue and also some advanced training in this particular area as well.
Juntunen said this type of incident happens most frequently not only when children decide that a silo would make a great place to play, but also when a farmer, feed mill or other type of elevator employee gets trapped after the product in the silo does not all shift down to the auger at the bottom and the product gets hung up or forms a crust. If the worker then makes an entry to attempt to loosen the product, he or she might get sucked down into the silo and get covered with grain.
In response to such an incident, a specially trained rescue team is then lowered into the bin via a very complex system of ropes and pulleys suspended from the end of a fire department ladder truck. When the victim is located and uncovered, he or she is packaged into a special portable gurney and then extricated from the silo.
“We did learn that if this was an actual request for assistance, the resources and trained personnel of several departments would be needed,” said Juntunen, stressing how important it is for interdepartmental training to prepare for this type of emergency.
Saturday’s training was attended by some 20 local emergency responders from Carlton and Wrenshall as well as Esko.
Widdes Feed and Farm Supply assisted with financial assistance to make it all possible.
“This is yet another excellent example of the importance of good relations between the public and private sectors,” said Juntunen. “The involvement and generosity of the Widdes family demonstrates a strong commitment to that end.”
On May 20, the Carlton Fire Department is planning to bring its ladder truck back to Esko and the departments are going to train on the actual grain mill at Widdes Feed.