Grain bin rescue

Instructor Brad Kruse (right) helps Shayla Karlowsky, of Wheatfield, Ind., (center) and Darla Warren, of Madill, Okla., participate in a simulated grain bin rescue as part of the University of Iowa's annual Agricultural Safety and Health course at the National Educational Center for Agricultural Safety at Northwest Iowa Community College in Peosta, Iowa, on Tuesday, June 11, 2019.

PEOSTA, Iowa -- Instructors at Northeast Iowa Community College’s National Education Center for Agricultural Safety walked students of the University of Iowa’s annual Agricultural Safety and Health course through rescue methods and prevention techniques this afternoon.

Among the presentations was a demonstration on grain bin rescue techniques.

Guided by NICC instructors, one student in each group climbed into a small grain bin erected on a trailer. Their fellow students slid panels — collectively dubbed the “Great Wall of Rescue” — down into the grain, encircling the trapped patient.

Rescuers first lowered the level of grain with scoops. Then, they lowered a narrow, handheld grain auger down into the grain trapping the victim, eventually allowing him or her to climb or be pulled free.

The University of Iowa holds this weeklong course each year in June for students studying for a wide range of careers. The course is taken by future physicians, veterinarians, agricultural producers, nurses and more.

“You may get this first call when people are in the bin, but it may be hours before you see a patient,” NECAS Manager Dan Neenan told a group of students. “This way, you know what’s happening in the time between those points. You know what the patient is going through.”

Shayla Karlowski, of Wheatfield, Ind., played the patient in her group’s simulation.

“I knew I was getting out so I didn’t panic,” she said. “But I think in a real-life situation, it starts to trap you and put pressure on your body. In a real-life situation, there would be a lot more panic and paranoia — that ‘Oh, gosh, I’m going to go under.’ That pressure I could feel in my toes. You can feel your heartbeat in your feet. That would be a very scary situation.”

Karlowski is an occupational health nurse for Bayer Crop Science. She works at a seed corn production facility with bulk storage bins and some crop dryers.

She said what she’s learned so far in the course will be put to good use.

“I grew up on a farm and (we were not always) the safest, growing up there with grandpa,” she said. “It’s cool to come get this knowledge, bring it back to the employees I work with, but also the growers in the farming community I live in still.”

Diane Rohlman, director of the agricultural safety and health program, said these training sessions are great for students with more urban backgrounds starting their careers in Iowa.

“Farming is one of the most dangerous occupations in the world,” she said. “Only about 2% of the population is engaged in farming, but we see higher injury rates than in any other industries. We know that a lot of people are living in rural areas, but may not have grown on a farm or worked on a farm. So with the Agricultural Safety and Health course, we’re trying to educate them about what some of the hazards are on the farm and how to prevent some of these injuries and illnesses.”

Some of the coursework is completed at the university’s main campus in Iowa City. Rohlman said this day at NICC gives some key hands-on education.

“We don’t have too many farms right on the Iowa campus,” she said. “Coming here, we get a chance to practice, see some of what the equipment looks like and what it’s like to be a first responder, a volunteer firefighter, who would be the one who’d need to rescue someone that’s injured on the farm.”

The rest of the year, Neenan his team are busy working with fire departments all over the country, as well as farmers, to try to prevent injuries before they happen and train for rescues when they do.

In addition to the grain rescue, students participated in a rescue in a confined-space manure pit simulator, saw a grain dust explosion in miniature, covered anhydrous ammonia hazards and more.

“The farm is a great place to raise a family, but it’s also a dangerous place,” Neenan told students.

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