The scene had all the elements of a full-fledged disaster. There was a grain bin, an auger running and a person missing. A frantic 911 call went out.
The Bargersville Fire Department responded quickly. And why not? The "grain bin" was in the back lot of Fire Station #2!
OK, this was a mock rescue training exercise, but Mike Morris, the Bargersville Fire Chief and a person with a farm background, wanted everything to be as real as possible. For three days, different crews from the department went through the training, each time treating it as a real grain entrapment rescue.
The grain bin was obtained through a grant from the Johnson County Community Foundation and a healthy discount from GSI, the grain handling company. There was also strong support from local farmers, including Steve Duke, a member of the fire department board.
The seed for the training bin was planted several years ago, when a local farmer perished in a grain bin.
"Several of us have wanted to do training so if it ever happens again, everyone knows immediately how to respond," Morris says.
I was invited to observe the very first mock rescue using the bin. Morris hopes to use it routinely not only for training with their people, but for other first responders around the community, even outside of the county.
Check out the day in pictures >>
To the rescue: Fire trucks begin arriving soon after the 911 call for help.
Assess the scene: The first firemen make sure it is safe for them to enter the bin. Although it's a matter of contention, Morris says they're trained to treat it as a confined space and make sure there are no dangers to the rescuers first. Others contend it is not a confined space.
Locate victim: The first job of these two firemen is to locate and assess the victim. He is partially submerged, but they can reach him. So they don't need to enter and don't need a rescue tube. He is stable, but with low blood pressure.
Locate utilities: Chief Morris located the electrical controls, makes sure power is locked out, and communicates with his first responders at the bin.
Scene commander in charge: A scene commander, not the chief, is in control of the operation. He has radio contact and a line of sight with everyone. His job is to direct the operation. Since the victim is alive, it is a rescue, not a recovery.
Stop! The safety commander (right) has full power to call freeze on the radio and stop the entire rescue, Morris says. His job is to make sure the scene is safe for rescue personnel. He called "freeze" in this case because the harnesses for the two rescuers at the bin door were still on the ground. It did not resume until they were buckled up.
Position the ladder: The bucket truck gets in position near the bin. The plan is to use a rope and tackle method to lift the victim up from the bin and then lower him to the ground.
Secure the ropes: The ropes are secured in multiple locations. Note there are two ropes – red and blue. Morris says only one is needed, but the other is back-up in case one should break.
Lone sentry: Note the firemen positioned on the side away from the action. He was there for a reason. The commander put him there to keep anyone else from going up the ladder, and to observe possible snafus from a different angle.
String the ropes: The crew commander in gray makes sure that the ropes are being strung properly. For many of the trainees, this was the first time to actually use the ropes. For some it was the first time to be around grain and a grain bin.
Up and out: The two firemen at the bin roof door help the victim clear the bin as the ropes are used to lift him out.
Successful mission: A fireman receives the victim and prepares to place him on the ground. EMT personnel are waiting to come in as soon as he is on the ground. Chief Morris declares the mission is a success, although he notes there are things they can learn from and be even more prepared next time.