The Chatfield Fire Department has recently acquired this grain bin extrication equipment, on display two weeks ago in the Western Days parade.   GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/CHATFIELD NEWS
The Chatfield Fire Department has recently acquired this grain bin extrication equipment, on display two weeks ago in the Western Days parade. GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/CHATFIELD NEWS
The Chatfield Fire Department has a grain of prevention for a bin of emergency.

"A person can be engulfed in five seconds if they're in a grain bin with flowing grain, and it takes about 60 seconds for them to be completely engulfed," said Chatfield firefighter Chris Musty, "and the fatality rate for grain bin accidents is 62 percent."

Musty quoted those statistics and others, including that in 2010, there were 51 grain bin accidents in Minnesota - accidents in which a farmer, his family or farmhand fell into a grain bin and needed emergency assistance to escape the pressure that surrounding grain placed on them as they risked death by suffocation.

The prevalence of smaller farmers selling out to owners of larger operations has increased the need for grain bin rescue equipment, as Musty noted, "There are getting to be some pretty big grain bins around here, like in Wykoff, Stewartville and at Swensons. We wanted to get this in time for the fall harvest season. We have had grain bin accidents in the area before...a couple have come close."

The "this" he referred to is a five foot tall, five foot radius grain bin extrication cylinder designed to isolate a grain bin fall victim from being further surrounded by grain. The Chatfield Fire Department recently purchased a cylinder to add to its rescue equipment.

The cylinder is placed around the individual in a bin, leaving room for rescue personnel to be lowered into it to administer first aid and secure the victim in a harness for release from the corn.

"This is now the more popular way of rescuing someone from a bin. They haven't been out for a long time, but they actually work," Musty said. "We actually looked at three to four different styles before we bought one, tested out a couple and ended up buying this one. This company that makes and sells them did a training session with us, and the guy who brought it down said that it had been used and saved a couple people."

The extrication equipment is sold in half circle sets, and the Chatfield firefighters felt that it was important to be prepared instead of regretful, so they raised enough money to buy two sets.

"We bought two sets - it makes one bigger set. We're able to get rescue personnel in with the person in the bin. We can set it up in a circular pattern so that if a person is in the middle of the grain bin, we can surround them with it, and if they're conscious, we can give them a bucket to start bucketing grain out, and we can set it up in a half circle if the person is pinned to the wall. If it's a half circle, the corn will actually hold it to the wall, and we can get the person out. We also got 800 feet of rope, two full body harnesses and some miscellaneous pulleys, and we bought a chopsaw that we can possibly use to cut a hole in the bin if we had to."

The department has held training sessions so that firefighters can learn how to use the extractor properly. "Twenty guys showed up, and we actually used it in corn so that we did it the right way. I think we're having Riverland come and do a training course on it. They have a bin that they pull on a trailer that we can use this on."

Musty continued, "We had two Wykoff guys come up and do training with it to see how it works. We also demonstrated it during Western Days and National Night Out."

Chatfield's specialized rescue equipment includes a sled to be attached to an ATV or a snowmobile for off-road emergencies, and the addition of the grain bin extractor will be an asset to the department and to departments around.

"Spring Valley has their chill tent for the fire department to use for recuperation, and eventually, we'll have a trailer available for the bin extractor so that it's really portable," Musty added.

He and the rest of the firefighters are grateful to those who contributed toward the purchase of the grain bin extrication equipment.

"A large part of the money was donated - three-quarters of it - by area farmers and a couple of businesses. We've been working on getting it for over a year...a couple of men went out and raised the money, drove around to the farmers and businesses."

He concluded, "It's kind of like buying a set of screwdrivers - something that you've got to have - but we just hope we never need."