Grain bin rescue tube, training donated to Harrington Fire Company

Margie Chase, Nationwide Insurance sponsor relations account executive, serves as willing volunteer as Harrington firefighters learn how to assemble a grain bin rescue tube around a victim. (Submitted photo)

HARRINGTON — The Harrington Volunteer Fire Company has a new tool in its arsenal for even the tightest of emergencies.

A grain bin rescue tube was donated to the organization with the help of local and national businesses knowing tragedies can arise when they are least expected.

Joseph Poppiti, executive director of the Delaware Farm Bureau, worked alongside Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company and Shiff Farms Inc. to ensure the donation.

“I am not the grain bin safety expert, but I know that in a worst-case scenario, a trapped farmer can not only rapidly sink into the grain in a bin but can ultimately suffocate.

“Also, being trapped in grain up to one’s neck places tremendous pressure on the body which can lead to other health risks. The rescue tube is the equipment that can assist the fire and rescue teams in removing the grain from around the farmer and decreasing the pressure on his body. I have read that the worst thing in a rescue attempt is to pull the trapped farmer out by his arms or chest without first removing the grain around him,” Mr. Poppiti said.

Firefighters use a portable grain bin auger to extract grain from inside the rescue tube where Cody Rash awaits rescue. Instructor Dan Keenan, right, keeps a close eye on the trainees. (Submitted photo)

To top off the donation of the equipment itself, which included the grain bin rescue tube and a portable cordless drill-powered grain auger, firefighters received hands on training July 11 from Dan Neenan, the director of the National Education Center for Agricultural Safety.

“The training is the step by step process of installing the rescue tube, removing the grain from around the farmer and ultimately freeing him inside the safety of the tube. There is also training if the outside of the grain bin must be cut to remove excess grain. This training also instructs the fire and rescue personnel on the fastest but safest way to make cuts in a grain bin to remove the grain but without causing the bin to collapse,” Mr. Poppiti explained.

Luckily for the firefighters and local farmers, grain bin rescue tubes are rarely needed. The tubes and training are offered through the “Nominate Your Fire Department Contest” hosted by Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company, according to the Delaware Farm Bureau. Only four of the 77 units given out last year have been used to rescue someone so far.

Now in its sixth year, the program recently expanded to include groups who could raise $5,000 for the equipment and training. This is when the Delaware Farm Bureau sprung into action.

“Grain bin accidents, where someone gets trapped in a grain bin, don’t happen too often. But, if one does occur, Delaware Farm Bureau and Nationwide, who is the number one farm insurer in the Unites States, wants our local fire and rescue teams to be prepared,” Mr. Poppiti said. “It is important to have the right equipment for this type of rescue and the right training. Both are being provided to the Harrington Fire Company and Schiff Farm employees who work around grain bins.”

Billy Staples, a Nationwide agent with offices in Salisbury, Maryland, and Harrington, agreed to put up half of the funding necessary, according to the Delaware Farm Bureau.

Mr. Staples said, “If we can help save or protect one life, then that benefit is much greater than the investment into the equipment. 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, also of Harrington, agreed to provide the other $2,500 needed for the equipment and training.

Schiff Farms, located on U.S. 13, has a few grain silos and brought employees along for the training July 11.

“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,” Mr. Schiff said.

Mr. Poppiti said he hopes to help secure donations of grain bin rescue tubes for more fire departments across the state. Anyone interested in helping with that project may call Poppiti at the Delaware Farm Bureau office at 302-697-3183.

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