Grain silo rescue training is underway in Tennessee

The fifth annual Stand Up 4 Grain Safety Week is underway, drawing attention to silo and other accidents on the farm. University of Tennessee’s Ag Institute is training farmers and rescue workers to respond to these sometimes-tragic events.

Recreating a disaster on the farm-- a man in sinking grain, thousands of pounds of corn crushed against his body, and a feeling like quicksand. There is no way to climb out and air to breathe soon will be in short supply. When someone falls into a pit of grain, panic can set in.

According to Megan Harris with UT Extension Wayne County, “It happens and it’s quick. Your first response is to try to dig yourself out, and what you don’t realize is you’re pulling yourself further in.”

Harris represents one of seven middle Tennessee counties in the grain entrapment training, coordinated by UT Extension’s AgrAbility program and Tennessee Association of Rescue Squads.

In an accident, time is critical, but you cannot just toss someone a rope and yank them out of a bin.

Here rescuers use what is called a turtle tube to wrap around the victim and slow the grain from covering them. It is a move an experienced farmer like Nathan Duren appreciates.

There were 23 deaths nationwide in silo accidents the last year stats were available. Added to the tragedy, several of the victims were children.

“I’m the ag agent in Wayne County, but I reside in Lawrence County, and in Ethridge, there was a tragic accident of a child who died in a grain entrapment situation, and it just haunted me,” Harris states. “As a mom, you think, ‘what could have been done to prevent that?’”

In modern-day agriculture, we have larger grain bins on farms and this training is needed.

“We had several planned for last year, and then COVID hit, and so we are just now starting back,” Tennessee AgrAbility’s Joetta White states. “This is our first one that we have done in a year, so we are excited and we hope to get more counties involved.”

Farming remains a dangerous profession, but with grain bin accidents, with the proper know-how, we can perhaps avoid having a difficult situation turn into something horrible.


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