Kansas Crew Trains for Grain Disaster Rescue

January 23, 2013

Firefighters in southeast Kansas have received trained in ways to rescue people who are engulfed in grain at storage facilities.

They practiced last week using a mobile trailer from the Kansas Fire and Rescue Training Institute, which can simulate rescues of people trapped in grain bins, The Pittsburg Morning Sun reported.

Technical rescue program manager Ed Morrison says some of the grains can act like quicksand, especially those used in oil production. Southeast Kansas raises mostly wheat and corn, so firefighters trained using wheat.

“It can take 1,200 pounds of force to pull someone out if they’re up to their chest,” Morrison said. “You can’t just hook a rope around someone and drag them out. If you do, you might pull an arm out of joint or worse.”

Firefighters and some grain elevator employees went through the exercise last Wednesday. Some volunteered to be buried up to their chest in wheat in either the cone-shaped simulation or the grain bin simulation.

“About 92 percent of victims do not survive if they are fully engulfed,” Morrison said.

Trapped survivors could suffer from suffocation, fall injuries, crush injuries, or other problems. Another possible complication is that blood pools and clots while the person is caught, which could cause a stroke or heart attack up to 72 hours after a person is rescued.

Pittsburg Fire Battalion Chief Jeff Kavanagh said he hopes firefighters never have to respond to someone engulfed in grain but he appreciates the training.

“It’s very useful. We have to be prepared for any incident that we’re called on,” Kavanagh said. “Though it’s something you might only see once in a career, it’s important.”

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