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Grain bin rescue equipment awarded to Almont Twp. FD


Farmer/firefighter Rick Ziehm persists in efforts to earn grant


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Dan Neenan, Director of Iowa's Center for Agricultural Safety and Health, oversees demonstration of proper use of new grain bin rescue equipment. photo by Debra Wegner.

September 12, 2018
ALMONT TWP. — Imagine the horror of quickly sinking into a quagmire of grain that engulfs your body, crushing your chest, impeding your ability to breathe, even if your head remains emersed.

This is a very realistic scenario that could happen at anytime on any farm. Grain bin rescues are especially difficult and require specialized training and equipment.

Thanks to a gift of a grain rescue tube to Almont's Fire Department, they will be better able to safely extricate persons in such situations. A grain bin tube is a paneled aluminum tube with a sleek finish that allows the panels to slide easily into grain. Special ball and socket joints allow the panels to be easily connected allowing some range of movement to protect the trapped person as rescuers remove grain around the victim before extricating them.

Grain rescue is tricky and it's imperative that it's executed as quickly as possible. It takes 800 pounds of lift to remove a man buried just to his waist in corn. By the time he's buried to his chest, the corn shifts every time he exhales, preventing him from inhaling and he will begin to suffocate slowly. The average grain bin rescue takes about 3.5 hours. Some take longer.

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Almont Firefighter Rick Ziehm has been applying for the equipment for four years through the National Education Center For Agricultural Safety (NECAS) and this year his application was finally approved.

Ziehm, who has been on the AFD for 16 years, is a farmer who has always had an interest in grain bin and farm implement rescues and has spent years attaining additional training in those fields. A representative from Yarbrough Insurance Group of Almont had contacted Ziehm about NECAS's program through Nationwide Insurance and suggested he apply for the grain bin rescue equipment.

Knowing these statistics, coupled with being a farmer, Ziehm has had a special interest in farm rescues on a personal level. Out of 400 applicants, Almont was one of 29 departments from 19 states chosen to receive the lifesaving equipment valued at $2,600.

On Thursday night members from Almont, Berlin Twp., Imlay City and Dryden fire departments gathered in Almont to listen to a presentation by NECAS Director Dan Neenan, of Iowa's Center for Agricultural Safety and Health.

Almont's Fire Chief Don Smith had taken the opportunity to invite the surrounding fire departments and first responders in hopes of creating a specialized team for grain bin rescues. With nearly 40 emergency services personnel on hand, interest appeared high for this rescue training. No other department in the immediate area has a grain bin tube, so enlisting a partnership further fans the safety coverage for area farmers and firefighters.

Neenan put on an hour presentation at the fire hall then took the class to nearby Eschenburg Farms to present the grain tube to the department. Also Neenan provided hands-on demonstrations on how the grain tube and auger work in real-life situations.

According to Neenan, statistics for 2016 in the United States report 70,000 disabling farming accidents and 593 fatalities. Jeremy Yarbrough, owner of Yarbrough Insurance Group of Almont was pleased that Almont's fire department was awarded this year's rescue equipment.

"I was glad to see Rick Ziehm stick with it because it's kind of a painstaking process, but he kept at it and did an excellent job," Yarbrough said. "We're all about trying to help out the farmers and firefighters. If something happens, our firefighters will have the equipment and training to help prevent loss of life, that's what it's all about."

Fire Chief Don Smith is pleased as well.

"I hope it's a great tool for our community and I hope we can keep an interested team together," he said.

Smith noted how oftentimes it's difficult to get help during the daytime when many of the firefighters are at their jobs. He's hoping that by utilizing a team comprised of rescuers from several departments in the area, that in the event of a daytime farm rescue there will be enough team members available to quickly and safely execute the necessary procedures.

Likewise, Ziehm is optimistic about the future of grain bin rescues because of the new equipment.

"I'm pretty amped about this equipment and the training. Lots of the younger guys seem excited to work on this too," Ziehm said. "I'd rather it'd collect a lot of dust and rust than need it, but if we do need it, it's a comfort knowing it's there."

Anyone is interested in joining the specialized grain bin rescue team and are from the Almont, Berlin Twp., Dryden, or Imlay City areas, contact the Almont Fire Department at 810-798-8111.

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