Red Deer County Protective Services recently provided grain entrapment rescue training for over 50 firefighters and rescue personnel throughout Central Alberta. During courses held in January and February, trainees had the opportunity to experience grain entrapment and perform various rescue scenarios using the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association’s “BeGrainSafe” simulation trailer. Course participants were entrapped – sometimes up to shoulder-deep – in over 7,000 pounds of wheat while a team of rescue personnel worked to extract them safely. The training included firefighters and technical rescue personnel from every district in Red Deer County (Bowden, Delburne, Elnora, Innisfail, Red Deer, Spruce View & Sylvan Lake) as well as firefighters from Olds, Penhold, Ponoka County and the Alberta Vehicle Extrication Association.
Course participants completed a 1-hour online lesson on grain handling and storage as well as a 4-hour classroom session on grain entrapment and rescue before putting their rescue skills to the test in various rescue scenarios that increased in complexity as the rescuers grew more comfortable with their techniques.
Participants were overwhelmingly surprised by how quickly they were sucked into flowing grain and how it was nearly impossible to self-rescue once buried only waist-deep. Dave Brand, Course Instructor and Red Deer County Director of Protective Services stated “It takes mere seconds for the average adult to sink in flowing grain – less than 10 seconds to become trapped and 20 seconds to become fully buried.”
Brand also offered some advice for farmers or workers who might encounter grain entrapment incidents at their farm or workplace, “You should avoid entering grain alone – if you can, always use a buddy system. The most important thing to do if someone does become trapped is to immediately STOP the flow of grain and call 9-1-1.”
Rescue personnel use a cofferdam system to protect the victim and a specially designed rescue auger, shop-vacuum or even grain scoops to remove grain, relieving pressure until the victim can be safely removed or work their way out. The course taught rescuers how dangerous it is to try to pull somebody out or to hold onto them while restarting the flow of grain, which can cause severe injury or result in them being drawn deeper – the force exerted by grain on an adult buried waist-deep can be over 600 lbs.
Canadian farm safety statistics on grain/soil entrapment related fatalities show an average of 3 fatalities per year nationwide, with many more non-fatal incidents going unreported. Brand concluded each course with the following hope: “If we can help prevent this from happening or be prepared to rescue people when needed, then 3 more Canadians each year can get home safely to their family.”