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Grain bin rescue training in Cherokee County - KOAM TV 7

Grain bin rescue training in Cherokee County

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A special simulator on wheels from the University of Kansas is in Columbus, Kansas.  It's meant to help teach grain elevator workers and emergency responders how to rescue someone trapped under the weight of grain.

The Kansas Fire and Rescue Training Institute says there are 970 commercial insured grain elevators across the state, but that number does not include private, farmer-owned grain bins.

The U.S. Department of Labor says it only takes two to three seconds to become helpless in a grain bin.  They say in 2010 there were 51 workers engulfed in grain storage bins nationwide - 26 died.

Emergency responders say today's exercise was important for this area.

"Someone that's five and a half foot tall can travel 11 feet, completely under the grain, in less than a minute," says Cherokee County Emergency Manager Jason Allison.

"If we can train on stuff like this each year it's going to keep us more informed on our education and stuff about it," says Columbus Fire Captain Steve Burton.

Allison and Burton says there's been no recent emergency situation from a grain bin in Cherokee County, but that's only what's on record.

"All the local farmers have grain bins and stuff so they might have had something like this - they just got out on their own and they didn't report it," Allison says.

Emergency responders still need to be prepared.  Local firefighters and grain elevator workers worked inside the simulator.  It portrays a hopper and enclosed grain elevator.

A person trapped waist-deep in grain is helped by firefighters who enclose the victim with sections of metal, or wood.

The enclosure allows rescuers to vacuum out grain near the person trapped.

Firefighters stand on plastic soda or water bottle holders.

"Before we put those platforms in, we were sinking to almost our knees," says Burton.

This first ever training of its kind in Cherokee County is free but grain operators say it's valuable.

"It's something that is absolutely critical in our industry," says Roger Gattis of Overman Grain.

A real grain elevator is much bigger than this simulator, of course, but firefighters say this training provides the fundamentals.

Emergency responders say one lesson they were reminded of today is that grain can be quite cool in a storage bin.  They say someone trapped by the weight of grain could suffer from hypothermia.

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