Steve Wettschurack recently conducted a grain safety and rescue training class in Ripley County. While they like to hold registration to 30 due to the nature of the activities in the class, 36 people were trained. Of those 34 were farmers. How did that happen when the class is primarily designed for first responders who might be called to deal with a grain entrapment situation?
"Those 34 farmers were also volunteer firemen." He says. "So that's why they were able to come." First responders and other professionals get credit toward continuing education for attending one of these programs.
The grain rescue and safety class, underway now for about a year, has proven to be an overwhelming success. Steve has presented some 40 classes, training some 1,500 people, primarily first responders.
"The response has been overwhelming," says Bill Field, Purdue University farm safety specialist. "While grain bin entrapments actually account for a small percentage of farm fatalities, many of these cases wind up being high profile events. They get TV coverage, and coverage in many newspapers and magazines.
"It's created the teachable moment. Many of the programs we have done are because people in that area have requested them. Often it's in an area where an incident has happened in the recent past."
The program includes several parts, including how to properly use rescue tubes, a fairly recent development. While several brands are on the market, Field says it's important to purchase tubes that fit through bin openings and are flexible and fit the need. Not all products on the market do so, he says.
Many communities have raised money to purchase these rescue tubes for use by local fire departments. Some of them actually give them to the fire departments. In other cases, they're located in strategic locations in the community where any responding agency who needed to borrow the tube could get to it easily."Dean Akridge has given us a green light to continue these training programs, so we will continue to offer them to meet the demand," Field says. The programs are nearly self-sustaining from a cost-standpoint. Participants pay a modest fee for the class. Sometimes local ag companies or groups pay all or part of the fee so first responders in their area can participate. The program exposes non-farm responders to rural situations and conditions as well.