I have been able to do a lot of things firsthand because of my chosen occupation— news reporter. I do not regret any of them. But let’s just say I have given my mom some gray hair over some of my choices!
However, one that will stand out forever came April 2 — I was the victim in a mock grain bin entrapment.
The Homeworth Volunteer Fire Department in Columbiana County received a national grant sponsored by Successful Farming magazine, the National Education Center for Agricultural Safety, FS Grain Systems and Grain Systems, Inc. The fire department asked several fire departments including Hanoverton, Winona, Washington Township from Stark County, Beloit, Homeworth, North Georgetown and Damascus to join them for the grain bin rescue training at the Mike Conny Farm in Beloit.
I was interviewing those involved and snapping pictures when the National Education Center for Agricultural Safety trainer, Dan Neenan, asked me if I would like to be the victim.
From the ground, it looked like a good idea.
Atop the bin, however, it was an experience I won’t soon forget and hopefully, the real thing will never happen to anyone I know.
The feelings I experienced in the accident were different for me. I like to think that I don’t freak out too easily when something physical or out of my control happens. Until this exercise that is!
I wrestled a harness and got it securely fastened with the help of some firefighters at the training. Then it was time to climb the platform to the top of the grain bin.
I climbed in and could immediately feel the corn inside moving. I was falling… Falling… Falling! And let me make this clear: I did not like that feeling! I had no control and even with those two or three dozen firefighters just yards away on the ground, I could feel my anxiety rising.
Finally, I was buried in corn to the point the firefighters were content. I was afraid to move for fear I would start sinking again.
After the tube was properly placed, the real work began. The firefighters placed a wet/dry vacuum over the top of the tube and began to suck out the corn from around my body.
At the same time, I was handed a grain scoop and was told to start scooping my way out! Then as I scooped my way out, the firefighters rocked the tube back and forth.
After about 15-20 minutes (maybe it wasn’t that long, but I was starting to freak!), the grain had dwindled and my legs were almost free.
When I was free, I could barely feel my legs. They were like jelly, and I could feel my pulse beating so hard in them.
Those emotional and physical feelings? All I can say is wow! It would be so easy for someone to lose his wits and truly panic if this was the real thing.
Combine that panic with the fact that it just takes seconds and your whole body can be sucked down to the auger where corn is being loaded out and it is easy to see how quickly an accident can occur.
I was an adult, just involved in a mock accident with dozens of firefighters at the foot of the bin, and I could feel the uncertainty and anxiety. Consider an adult who is working alone to load grain out and you can easily see how accidents happen.
Or worse yet — one that no one wants to think about — is what if a child climbed the ladder and went in. I can’t even think about that.
I do hope that the training the firefighters received by the National Education Center for Agricultural Safety goes for nothing. What I mean, is that I hope they never have to use it.
Before I end this blog entry, I want to give the firefighters who attended the training a very big Thank You.
Thank you for those that helped me get the safety harness on. And then a great big THANK YOU to all of you who took time on a Saturday to attend this exercise so that if an accident occurs, you are prepared.