Oklahoma’s Mobile Grain Engulfment Simulator Delivers Life Saving Training

Grain Engulfment and Confined Space Rescue Simulator training offered by OSU Fire Service Training to local fire departments. The trailer offers controlled realistic experience for persons trapped in a grain bin or elevator. They are allowed hands on with both makeshift equipment and specialized rescue equipment designed for grain engulfment rescues.

It is a typical day on the farm and a local farmer is rushing to get everything checked off his list when the grain stops flowing from the storage bin. Like many times before, he hops in to break up any big clumps clogging up the system.  

He fixes the problem and grain begins to flow. However, in doing so, he has created a much bigger problem. He is now stuck and panicking to free himself.

“If you’re buried to your knees you cannot get yourself out. The physical properties of grain are like none other,” said Carol Jones, stored product engineering professor in Oklahoma State University’s Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering. “It’s a living, being-type thing that wraps around you, somewhere between quicksand and running water.”

Without the proper training, the farmer continues to struggle, sinking farther and farther into the bin. It only takes about 20 seconds for the farmer to be engulfed over his head and the outlook for survival is very slim.

“Waiting for the fire department to get there may not be an option. It happens so quickly,” Jones said.

To avoid situations like this, or know how to handle one when it arises, OSU’s Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering partnered with Fire Service Training in the College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology to create some proper training.

What started as an instructional DVD (video below) has developed into full-day training seminars, complete with a 60-foot grain entrapment trailer that OSU can bring anywhere in the country.

“This initiative started after the Hydro accident, where we lost a fire chief in a grain bin,” Jones said. “There wasn’t anything they could do in there that was going to help anything. No fire department or grain elevator worker in Oklahoma should have to say they just didn’t know what to do. That is not acceptable. They were doing exactly what they were trained to do.”

The lack of relevant training resulted in OSU wanting a mechanism to have firefighters and elevator workers experience what it is like in a grain bin and what it takes to keep somebody safe, and also to rescue them if something does go wrong. The team built a demonstrator at the Stored Products Research and Education Center at OSU and quickly realized volunteer firefighters and farmers did not have the time to come to Stillwater for training.

The trailer was their solution, a solution that has already trained nearly 500 Oklahomans.

“We would like to have more participation with elevator workers and farmers,” Jones said.

The Grain Engulfment and Confined Space Rescue Simulator is available for groups of 15 to 20, but can accommodate up to 40 participants. It features two compartments. One looks just like a grain bin, with corrugated sheet metal, while the other is more of a box and can be used for confined space training.

Groups will spend the morning of a seminar in the classroom, receiving awareness training about why grain goes bad and options farmers and elevator workers have rather than climbing in the bin.

“Keeping them out of the bin is the best way to stay safe. People don’t go in the bin if the grain is in good condition,” she said.

Once the classroom portion of the training is over, the groups head outside to the trailer for the next few hours.

“While some people are up on top of the trailer being buried and learning how to get people out, we do demonstrations down on the ground about how to cut a hole in the side of a grain bin and how to set up tripods made out of ladders,” Jones said. “It’s very hands on.”

The trailer is completely self-contained and the hosting agency does not need to provide anything outside of participants.

Those interested in receiving this free training can contact Jones at jcarol@okstate.edu or 405-744-6667.


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