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Mobile Grain Bin Helps Train Ohio Firefighters In Farm Towns

Its harvest season for Ohio corn and soybean farmers. As prices generally fall during harvest, more farmers use grain bins to temporarily store grain until those prices rise.  But on-farm storage poses potentially deadly hazards.  State safety officials are responding. More Ohio farms are turning to grain bins,  tall cylindrical towers that can be 30 feet high.  They are wider more industrial version of the farm silo.  They store the fall's harvest until it's sold to market. Like all farm machinery the grain bins need maintenance, often by hand, to unclog pipes and augers. "During harvest season and throughout the year farmers are getting in these bins daily." Urbana Fire Captain Dave Torsell says unless farmers take precautions, grain bins can injure or kill. And as more storage bins are built on farms, there are more accidents. Ohio State University Ag Safety specialist Dee Jepsen describes what happens when someone gets trapped in tons of grain. "It's just like a boa constrictor around you. That grain is very heavy and the further down you go your lungs aren't able to breathe and it truly is a suffocation."  Says  Dee Jepsen. So far this year, 36 people have died in grain bin accidents in the U-S, including two in Ohio. In the last decade, 19 Ohioans have been killed in such incidents. Firefighter Torsell and grain elevator operator Andy Bauer have both been involved in recent fatal grain bin accidents "And, the gentleman that entered was just hanging on basically to a small piece of polypropylene rope. The rope didn't hold him. He was just basically submerged.  Says Torsell. "And three months later in the Springfield area there was another one that was on a farm that was in my family. Gentleman that farmed the ground with his son. And, for some reason, there was a chunk or whatever that blocked off the flow. He went up to get it out. Fell in. Again in his seventies. And there was no one on the outside to get him help."   Says Bauer. As part of an effort to reduce fatal grain bin accidents, Ohio State agricultural students have built a mobile replica grain bin and augur on a 40 foot tractor trailer.  They travel around conducting training exercises with the state fire marshall. Firefighter Torsell says the demonstration equipment is invaluable to firefighters in farm communities. "Most fire departments are reluctant to go out and ask farmers to be able to use and now they have no excuse to not get the training because it's available and it's almost picture perfect the way it would be in a bin." Says Dave Torsell. Torsell says better training will make for quicker rescues and possibly better survival rates from grain entrapment. The National Safety council says (92 percent) nearly all victims engulfed by moving grain do not survive.