Even With Extensive Training, Grain Bin Calls Often Come Too Late
By Chris Earl, Reporter
INDEPENDENCE, Iowa - Doug Cook has walked through the Indepdendence Fire Department for decades, responding to hundreds of calls.
As with many fire districts set in rural parts of Eastern Iowa, Cook knows that calls for people caught or trapped inside grain bins require the highest urgency.
"The sad part of the whole deal is these are mostly recoveries because, once they go down, it's usually a recovery and very time-consuming," said Cook.
On Thursday, at least 18 Waverly firefighters responded to Schneider Milling on Highway 3, east of Waverly, for a call of two men in a grain bin. Responders pulled Rick Schneider and Adam Schneider out and they were pronounced dead at a local hospital.
Waverly Fire Chief Dennis Happel said the two men died from a lack of oxygen.
Cook showed our crews some of the rescue equipment his department has, including connectable tubes.
"You put them down and put around somebody (who is trapped)," Cook said. "If you actually get to a place where you can save somebody."
That is the challenge as each second is critical. A person caught in a grain elevator can become buried in corn and grain in mere seconds.
Dan Neenan of the National Educational Center For Agriculture Safety in Peosta said technology also plays a role.
"Today's auger can pull a human to their waist within 15 seconds and completely submerge them within 30," said Neenan.
He also said that, because of the rising cost of corn, more of the grain bins are popping up in the state.
"We're seeing a lot of farmers move from other commodities to growing grain," said Neenan. "We are seeing more farmers growing and storing and moving more grain."
Neenan pointed to four ways grain bin incidents can occur:
- A bin with an auger runing.
- Crusting of corn. "The top crusts and creates a void area. As a person steps over that, they fall through."
- Crusting on the side of the bin. Neenan said a farmer can try and shovel and it engulfs them.
- A grain vacuum. "If somebody is grain vacuuming and they stick the vacuum in at their feet, it pulls the grain out and sinks them."
Neenan notes they are part of an OSHA training grant to properly train people.
"There is money available for companies to properly train their employees. to properly enter a grain bin."
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