Responders train for grain bin rescues

Emergency responders from multiple agencies are training in Chanute for grain bin rescues through Task Force 4.

The task force is part of Homeland Security and includes responders from emergency services of Neosho Memorial Regional Medical Center and Labette Health, and fire departments in Pittsburg, Iola, Parsons, Chanute and Neodesha. The exercise was funded through the Southeast Kansas Homeland Security Council.

Dale Lowry, Chanute Fire Department and Task Force 4 Coordinator, said the group trains on a regular basis and has at least one funded exercise a year. Wednesday was the first day of a three-day event, depending on the weather.

Midwest Search and Rescue provided training instruction. The group is a non-profit organization made up of retired emergency responders.

The exercise is east of Chanute at a group of retired grain bins owned by Beachner Grain, which also supplied two truckloads of corn.

The trainees rotated through three stations where they learned how to build cofferdams, handle ropes and knots, or – in a tube called the “fun house” – deal with victims engulfed by grain. Participants train about an hour at each station, and afterwards the three groups combine in a scenario to rescue a victim from an actual bin.

Some participants will attend more than one day for training in different disciplines to meet specific job performance requirements.

Moisture can cause grain to clump together, Lowry said, forming a top crust while the farmer takes grain out of the bottom of the bin. Sometimes a farmer will go into the bin to break up the crust, then becomes engulfed by the grain.

Once caught, the grain acts like quicksand, and Lowry said being buried only up to the knees can trap someone. Cofferdams must be placed around the victim to keep him from sinking deeper. Any movement on top of the grain can push the victim down further, Lowry said, so sometimes rescuers must lower down from the top of the bin without touching the grain.

Lowry said people expect responders to simply yank the victim out, but they don’t.

“It’s a slow, methodical process,” he said.

If rescuers must cut into the bin to release the grain, Lowry said, they must cut on both sides or the bin will collapse.

The victim for the exercise is a mannequin called Rescue Randy, and there are four of them here. Unlike a department store mannequin, Rescue Randy weighs 170 pounds, has bendable joints and a soft and pliable texture, like a person.

Lowry said corn, used in the exercise, will react the same as other grains like wheat, milo, soybeans or even Ash Grove cement.


Posted by Gwen Dorr Romine, KSFFA Webmaster
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