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8 things farmers need to know when calling 911 1381738 things farmers need to know when calling 911

At that moment the dispatcher may be the most important person in your life.

Tom Bechman 1

March 1, 2016

4 Min Read

Imagine the scene. You are in the barn lot, realize you haven’t seen your employer for several minutes. You put two and two together, and realize he is trapped under grain inside the grain bin. You call 911.

What happens then is an intense situation. Christie Cain, Rushville, lost her husband in a grain bin accident earlier this year. One thing she and her family relate is a certain degree of frustration over calling 911, and trying to get the operator to understand what they needed, and where they needed it.

Every situation is different, Bill Field notes. But in almost every situation of this sort emotions are high and the desire to call for help, then go help yourself is intense.


Field, the Purdue University Extension safety specialist, has experienced his own frustration when he was the first to spot a house fire at a neighbor’s house, and called 911. He was torn by wanting to get to the neighbor’s house to help, but still getting the 911 operator to understand where he was located.

Here are eight things you should know if you have to make a 911 call.

1. The dispatcher on the other end of the call is the most important person in your life at that moment!

“Realizing that may be difficult because these situations are emotionally charged,” Field says. “But the dispatcher should be trained to stay calm, and to ask questions. They need to know what kind of help you need, and where you need it.”

2. Nearly all Indiana counties have enhanced 911 systems, but all systems in all counties still don’t operate in the exact same way

It’s a matter of priority and funding in the county, Field says. However, in most of Indiana today, caller ID pops up for the dispatcher. It includes your address. However, in most cases it doesn’t include directions to your house.

3. Locating exactly where you are in the county is not always as easy as it seems

Field cites this example in Tippecanoe County where he lives. If you want to find 1150 North, 1025 East, the address that pops on the dispatcher’s screen, without a map it can be confusing. “In this case 1025 East ends and begins again a mile and a half later due to a large creek. The dispatcher needs to ask enough questions to make sure responders make the right turns in the right places,” Field says.

4. The address displayed will be your home address, not necessarily where the incident occurred.

If your farmstead is at one place and the grain bins are a couple miles away, and you make the 911 call from your house on a land line, the address that pops up will be the house, not where you need help, Field says,

5. Addresses typically aren’t displayed if you call from a wireless phone.

The dispatcher may have nothing more than your phone number. If you hang up in the heat of the moment before the dispatcher has all the information he or she needs, you may risk slowing the response. The dispatcher is trained to call back if you hang up.

6. Stay off the phone in case the dispatcher calls back

“Human nature is to hang up once you think you have help coming and start calling employees or relatives or neighbors immediately,” Field says. “If the dispatcher didn’t get all the information and tries to call back, they won’t reach you if you are on the phone.

7. Stay on the line until you see the rescue lights!

As hard as it may be to do, Field says the best strategy may be staying on the line with the dispatcher until you see emergency lights coming toward you. That’s the best way to know you have communicated clearly and that the dispatcher has help headed your way.

8. Pass along important information to the 911 system in advance

If you have a person in your home on oxygen or in a wheelchair, Field believes you ought to let your county 911 system know. Call them on a non-emergency line and report the information.

“Here’s where counties may vary in how much information they can record that would pop up for the dispatcher to see. In some counties you may even be able to supply maps of your farm buildings and locate water locations and electrical shut-off locations. That’s not possible in every county, however.

“If I have someone in the house with special needs, I would certainly make the local emergency dispatchers aware of it,” Field says.

About the Author(s)

Tom Bechman 1

Editor, Indiana Prairie Farm

Tom Bechman is an important cog in the Farm Progress machinery. In addition to serving as editor of Indiana Prairie Farmer, Tom is nationally known for his coverage of Midwest agronomy, conservation, no-till farming, farm management, farm safety, high-tech farming and personal property tax relief. His byline appears monthly in many of the 18 state and regional farm magazines published by Farm Progress.

"I consider it my responsibility and opportunity as a farm magazine editor to supply useful information that will help today's farm families survive and thrive," the veteran editor says.

Tom graduated from Whiteland (Ind.) High School, earned his B.S. in animal science and agricultural education from Purdue University in 1975 and an M.S. in dairy nutrition two years later. He first joined the magazine as a field editor in 1981 after four years as a vocational agriculture teacher.

Tom enjoys interacting with farm families, university specialists and industry leaders, gathering and sifting through loads of information available in agriculture today. "Whenever I find a new idea or a new thought that could either improve someone's life or their income, I consider it a personal challenge to discover how to present it in the most useful form, " he says.

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