RICHMOND, Va. — Grain bin fatalities continue to be a concern in rural America, and Hanover County farmers are working to prevent similar tragedies in their community.
According to statistics published by Purdue University, there were 29 grain entrapments in the U.S. in 2021, leading to seven fatalities. The number of entrapments decreased from 2020, which may be due to increased grain safety awareness and additional rescue equipment being available.
Hanover County Farm Bureau would like to see the number of grain bin entrapments continue to decline, so it has donated life-saving rescue equipment to the Hanover County Fire-EMS Department. The organization will donate a grain rescue tube to the fire department on March 23 at 1 p.m. at the county courthouse.
“There have been Hanover County farmers trapped in grain tanks, and first responders struggled to get them out safely,” said Leigh Pemberton, president of Hanover County Farm Bureau. “Our board of directors knew the best way for Hanover Fire-EMS to save lives was for us to donate a rescue tube. We are excited to be one of several county Farm Bureaus across Virginia helping to make farming safer.”
David Johnston, Hanover Fire-EMS assistant chief of administration and training, said the device will “greatly enhance our department’s ability to respond to technical rescue situations. We are grateful for the donation, and we look forward to providing another valuable asset to our citizens.”
The device, called the Great Wall of Rescue, consists of aluminum panels that create a tube to assist with grain bin extractions, surrounding a trapped victim to relieve pressure being exerted by funneling grain. Once the tube is inserted into the grain, it acts as a retaining wall as grain is removed from inside, ultimately freeing the victim.
Hanover Farm Bureau fully funded the purchase of the equipment, valued around $4,000. The organization also will help subsidize rescue personnel training.
Fewer than half a dozen fire departments statewide had grain bin rescue equipment before Hanover’s was purchased, and another round of county Farm Bureaus have since placed their orders.
Dana Fisher, chair of the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation Farm Safety Advisory Committee, said the addition of grain bin rescue equipment in Hanover County is a victory for area farmers.
He noted that having equipment near grain bins reduces response time, thus increasing the chance of survival among victims. Fisher added that having safety equipment in multiple localities helps create awareness for grain bin safety in Virginia, a state not known for large-scale grain production.
“Grain bins can seem like very innocuous things, but if you happen to be in the wrong spot, you’re facing a disaster,” he said. “Having these extraction tubes around, and having people trained and aware of the dangers, brings light to the fact that grain bins aren’t as simple as people think.
“Having the equipment in more locations is a positive thing, and it makes a huge difference in getting to people in time to save them.”
Hanover County Farm Bureau is one of 88 county Farm Bureaus in the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation. With 133,000 members, VFBF is Virginia’s largest farmers’ advocacy group. Farm Bureau is a non-governmental, nonpartisan, voluntary organization committed to supporting Virginia’s agriculture industry.
–Virginia Farm Bureau