Firefighters Practice Grain Bin Rescue with Simulations


A training team out of Kansas has spent the last two years working with farmers, plant managers, and employees on the best ways to avoid being trapped in grain and the safest ways to help someone who is. They recently shared their program and techniques with some volunteer firefighters here in Nebraska.

Ed Morrison, the technical programs manager for the state of Kansas, says one of the best ways to learn about grain engulfment rescue is by doing it. The Kansas Fire and Rescue Training Institute Grain Engulfment Rescue trailer is equipped to sink a person down in some grain so others can practice getting them out.

“Bury them once in the closed top bin to where they actually have to repel down off a mechanical advantage and lower themselves down into the grain, raise their victim back up, which is by far the most difficult exercise,” says Morrison.

It’s a situation that volunteer firefighters who were training with Morrison at State Fire School say they don’t want to respond to, but with the amount of grain being moved and stored across the state, they know it’s a possibility.

“It could happen at any given time, you just have to be ready for it,” says Clay Center volunteer firefighter Justin Griffiths. “Hopefully mutual aid or somebody in your area has got the tools that you need to be able to take care of the situation.”

The trailer has an open area filled with grain where trainees can practice with tubes – a series of panels that fit together around an engulfed victim so the grain can be pulled away from them. Morrison says it takes 800-1,400 lbs. of force to pull someone out of grain directly, so finding a way to free them is a must.

“You’d actually pull their extremities off before you would get them out of the grain,” he says.

An engulfment rescue isn’t a quick process either, so trainers talk safety while demonstrating different methods since they say no two accidents will ever be the same.

“Typical rescue will take four to six hours and for the people to get there right from the start and just make victim contact, just to be able to call somebody, just to go ahead and start the mutual aid process and things like that,” says Morrison.

Griffiths says it’s all knowledge they can use.

“Find out what they’re doing, how it works out for them, bring it back to our own departments and try to figure out our own ways and the fastest ways to get things done,” he says.