IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK) - Grain engulfment causes four to five deaths every year in the United States. On Friday, there was a training for both employees and emergency crews on how to rescue people trapped in grain. It was part of safety days at Thresher Artisan Wheat in Idaho Falls.
Thresher Wheat invited local fire departments from Idaho Falls, Blackfoot and Pocatello to come participate along with the company's employees.
For the training, volunteers were lowered down and trapped into the grain. There was then a demonstration on how to safely and quickly get them out.
"Grain engulfment can happen anywhere," said Heath Harrison, vice president of Thresher Artisan Wheat. "It happens on the farm and it happens in our commercial facilities."
So Harrison said the company decided to incorporate grain rescue training as part of their safety days exercises this year. He said he wanted to show people how dangerous grain can be, and how careful rescue crews need to be.
"Once you get near thigh-deep you're pretty immobile," Harrison said. "And as we saw in our demonstrations today, once you're waist-deep you're pinned."
If a person is completely engulfed, it can take as little as a few minutes to choke on the grain and suffocate to death.
Harrison said one of the misconceptions people have with those stuck in grain is that you can just use anything and pull them out. But that's not the case.
"You'll see commonly that people will put a rope around their body or something and put pressure and pull and do internal damage or injure the person further," Harrison said.
The proper way to do a grain engulfment rescue is to use panels and form a circle, or a sort of grain tube, around the person. The panels are placed as close to the person as possible, cutting off the outer circle of grain. Next, a Shop-Vac or other vacuum is used to suck up the grain from inside the tube. Hard hats can also be used to scoop out the grain if a vacuum isn't an option. Once enough grain is removed from inside the tube, it should allow the person to wiggle free. If not, crews continue working the panels down and scooping out the grain inside until the person can move.
Part of the training also included discussing how to handle the situation if the person trapped is unconscious or went in head first. Another big part of the training was to keep the person who is trapped calm. It can be an easy situation to panic in and that can only make things worse.
Other trainings happening on Friday included things like enclosed spaces. Several local fire departments did show up to watch the training.
Harrison said Thresher Wheat hopes to have a similar training exercise in the fall for producers as well as farmers and their families.
"This is not an every day thing, but it's important we make people aware of what to do should an event like that arise," Harrison added. "That's why these trainings are so important."