Local businesses chip in to purchase for Harrington Volunteer Fire Company

Thanks to the donations of local businesses, the Harrington Volunteer Fire Company recently acquired a grain bin rescue tube.

The tube, as well as a portable cordless drill-powered grain auger and training, have been offered for six years as a prize in a “Nominate Your Fire Department Contest” by Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company. 

When the Delaware Farm Bureau learned that Nationwide had opened its program up to those who could raise $5,000 for the equipment and training, officers took steps to secure the life-saving equipment for a fire department in Kent County.

“I’m just as guilty as anyone of crawling into a grain bin," said Delaware Department of Agriculture Secretary Michael Scuse. "This is something that is desperately needed. I hope we never have to use it, but if it’s needed, it’s there.”

Billy Staples, a Nationwide agent with offices in Salisbury and Harrington, agreed to put up half of the funding.

“If we can help save or protect one life then that benefit is much greater than the investment into the equipment," Staples said. "We are happy to help a community and a way of life that does so much for us.”

T.J. Schiff, of Schiff Farms Inc. in Harrington, agreed to provide the other $2,500. Schiff Farms has several grain silos at its location on Route 13 and had several employees on hand for the training at the fire company.

“I hope my guys get the idea of what risk is and that they will be scared to death. And I hope this tube gathers dust!" Schiff said.

Dan Neenan, Director of the National Education Center for Agricultural Safety, conducted specialized training for the Harrington Volunteer Fire Company on July 11. Some members learned what it feels like to be trapped in a grain silo up to your waist in corn, while others were trained in how to use a grain bin rescue tube to safely get the victim out. 

Neenan brought a state-of-the-art grain entrapment simulator and rescue tube from Iowa to conduct the training session. He emphasized that one should never enter a grain bin when grain is moving and should use the “lock out, tag out” system to prevent equipment from being turned on accidentally.

He added there should always be someone on the outside whose sole responsibility is to watch the person inside the tank.

“It takes 15 seconds to sink to your knees with an auger going,” he warned. “In 30 seconds, you can be in up to your waist.”

Never try to use mechanical devices, such as a harness, to pull a victim out of grain, he cautioned. 

The rescue tube comes in 25-pound panels which are interlocked in a circle around the victim. Grain is then removed from inside the tube. If the victim is conscious, he can help. A small, portable grain auger powered by a cordless, brushless drill can help empty the grain more quickly.

Once the grain is down below the knees, a conscious victim can work his way out of the grain. Rescued victims should be taken to a hospital for evaluation, Neenan warned, even if they insist they are fine. Effects of “crush and compartment syndrome” appear even an hour later and can be fatal.

Neenan also discussed how and where to cut holes in the side of a grain bin if someone is completely submerged in grain. There is also a right way and a wrong way to move the spilled grain away from the area.

He predicted that this year will be a bad year for grain engulfment in some areas of the country because of flooding. Wet grain gets moldy and clumps, clogging the auger.

“Next year we would like to raise the money to place a rescue bin in northern Kent County or southern New Castle County," said Delaware Farm Bureau Executive Director Joseph Poppiti.

The Bridgeville Fire Department, in Sussex, already has a rescue tube, having won the Nationwide contest in 2017. Of the 77 units distributed as of last year, four have been used to rescue someone.

Anyone interested in helping with that project can reach Poppiti at the Delaware Farm Bureau office at (302) 697-3183.