Nearly 30 firefighters from departments across Brown County attended a recent training session in Mt. Orab to go over skills necessary for grain bin rescues.
The firefighters convened at the Mt. Orab Fire Department for a session that, in instructor Michael Wilcox’s words, was to “build fundamentals” with ropes for grain-bin rescues.
“Overall, the training was to build fundamentals of using ropes systems, which is the most complicated part of grain bin rescue,” Wilcox said in a phone interview. “(The training) was entirely roped based. It requires them to use almost all the rope skills required for a grain bin rescue. The beauty of this training is, even though we didn’t see one grain of corn, all this training is transferable.”
Utilizing two training stations, Wilcox led the firefighters in practicing a couple of important maneuvers. One is called a pickoff, where a person is lowered down into a confined space by a rope, and has to get access to the victim, and pull them to safety.
“With the pickoff, they used a raising and lowering system,” said Wilcox, who is a professional firefighter in a township near Dayton, Ohio. “The lowering system uses a tool called the ladder rack, which is a repelling device, shaped like a U and looks like a mini ladder that is designed to cause friction on a rope so you can lower them in a controlled fashion. They used a mariner knot, basically a style of not that the rope twists on themselves and as you loosen it, it lengthens the rope. They learned how to change from a lowering system to a raising system.
“Constructing anchors is key to any rope system. You have to have a secure area that the rope is anchored to or tied to, you can’t just tie it to a wooden door.”
Another important part of the training was teaching or reminding the firefighters of some important knots to know.
“We’ve got it down to about five basic knots they need to know how to use,” Wilcox said. “But simply putting the harness on is difficult. It’s not like a coat or pair of pants. Everything’s connected so it looks like a bundle of spaghetti. So putting on a rescuer harness takes five to ten minutes. That’s a technique.”
The grain bin rescue trailer was presented to the Brown County Commissioners at the 2014 Brown County Fair, after the Brown County Farm Bureau started a campaign to raise money to fill the trailer with the equipment. The Farm Bureau received a $5,000 donation from DuPont Pioneer and presented that as well to the commissioners at the Brown County Fair, which allowed them to fill up the first trailer.
As the News Democrat has reported, Farm Bureau President Chris Rogers plans to fill two trailers full of equipment, which will cost an estimated $38,000 in total. The funds are generated through donations from the community and local businesses.
According to research conducted at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., 26 people died from grain bin entrapments in 2010, which was the highest number on record. Grain bin entrapments happen when a person standing on crusted grain falls through and is trapped under the heavy grain.
Both trailers will be housed at the Georgetown Fire Department, but firefighters from across the county will respond in a grain bin entrapment emergency.
Wilcox said that he would like to have another 20 hours of training before he feels that the firefighters will be comfortable using the equipment in an emergency, and he is planning on holding another two or three training sessions after the December holiday season.
For our final training, a contract company will be coming in with a grain bin and they’ll bury us and then dig us out,” Wilcox said. “It gives the sensation of sinking in corn and stopping people from sinking in corn.”
Considering that 28 firefighters attended the training from across the county, including Georgetown, Russellville, Higginsport, Mt. Orab, and Sardinia, Georgetown Fire and EMS chief Joe Rockey thought the training session went better than expected.
“Everybody got to participate and it was all hands on,” Rockey said. “Most of our guys were already pretty familiar with the process and everything. For most of us it was a refresher and for the younger guys it was a learning experience.”