Viroqua FFA alumni donates to fire department for grain bin rescue

Carol Spaeth-Bauer
Wisconsin State Farmer
Viroqua Fire Department members, as well as firefighters from Ontario, Stoddard and Yuba, attended a recent training at the Viroqua Fire Department by the National Education Center for Agricultural Safety NECAS, of  Peosta, IA. Firefighters learned how to use a Grain Bin Rescue Device if a farm workers is trapped in a grain bin.

It's equipment Viroqua Fire Department members hope they never have to use, but are thankful to have at their disposal.

Before receiving a recent donation, from the Viroqua FFA Alumni, of grain bin rescue devices and training, valued at $6,000, emergency personnel would have to rely on using plywood as makeshift equipment to rescue someone trapped in a grain bin. 

"It's (grain bin rescue device) great for our department," said Viroqua Fire Chief Chad Buros. "The training we got was awesome ... We picked up a lot of good tips."

A grain bin rescue device can be aligned to form a wall, a tube or shapes, depending on the rescue situation.

Members of the Viroqua FFA Alumni and the Viroqua Fire Department as well as members from the Ontario, Stoddard and Yuba Fire Departments gathered for training by the NECAS-National Education Center for Agricultural Safety on a Grain Bin Rescue Device. The device was donated to the Viroqua Fire Department from the Viroqua FFA Alumni. Viroqua FFA Alumni members present from left (wearing FFA Alumni polos) were: Carl Zube, president, Amy Hardy-member and Bernadine Hornby-secretary along with members of the Viroqua and Stoddard area Fire Departments.

The Viroqua Fire Department as well as firefighters from Ontario, Stoddard and Yuba, received training at the Viroqua Fire Department provided by the National Education Center for Agricultural Safety NECAS located in Peosta, IA. 

Rescue tips

One of the most valuable tips Buros said came from the training was having farmers number grain bins on their farm.

When crews arrive on scene at a farm emergency, there might be several grain bins on the farm. Numbering the bins and communicating the number of the bin when calling for emergency assistance, is vital in a situation where seconds are a matter of life or death.  

"When we pull in we know which bin to go to," Buros said. 

Buros said it is also important to have someone on scene who can tell firefighters what what happened, where to shut off power and to provide other important information.

When someone is trapped in a grain bin, it's important that "no one else becomes a victim themselves," Buros added. "When you see someone in need, you want to do what you can."

The NECAS trainer stated that a lot of times one person calls and reports the incident, then tries to help and gets caught in the bin.

Grain bin safety

Unfortunately, incidents involving grain bins, often result in multiple fatalities when coworkers attempt to rescue someone and become a victim as well, according to an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Fact Sheet

Asbury Grain for donated corn for a Grain Bin Rescue Device training at the Viroqua Fire Department recently. The device can be used by fire fighters if a farm work becomes entrapped in a grain bin.

These fatalities are preventable if employers follow work practices and provide training for workers. 

Grain storage bin entry is very dangerous. Entering a grain bin "exposes workers to serious suffocation hazards - a leading cause of fatalities" in the agriculture industry, according to OSHA.

The grain's behavior and weight make it difficult for someone to get out of the grain without assistance. Standing on flowing grain, on a bridging condition, or standing next to an accumulated pile of grain on the side of the bin can lead to engulfment in seconds, according to OSHA. 

Farming ranks as the most dangerous industry in the U.S. with a yearly death average of 20.4 farm work related deaths for every 100,000 workers-six times higher than the combined average for all US workers, according to the National Safety Council.

A grain bin rescue device can be aligned to form a wall, a tube or shapes depending on the rescue situation. The Viroqua Fire Department recently received a donation from the Viroqua FFA Alumni of $6,000 worth of equipment and training for grain bin rescues.

A Viroqua Fire Department captain and his wife who are "big into farming" had written several grants to try and get grain bin rescue devices for the department, but were turned down, Buros explained.

That's when he decided to go to the Viroqua FFA Alumni. 

The Viroqua FFA Alumni donated proceeds over the year from its annual Viroqua FFA Alumni Raffle and Tasty Sandwich Fundraiser to help make area farmers and agricultural workers safe and to help save lives. 

While the FFA Alumni hopes the grain bin device will never have to used, the group knows the farming community now has additional safety measures in place.
The Viroqua FFA Alumni supports Viroqua High School’s agriculture education and FFA program as well as the Viroqua community. Membership is open to anyone wishing to support agriculture education, FFA and the community. Previous FFA membership is not required.