Safety

In 2014, the Westphalia, Kansas, Fire Department received a grain tube and training through a contest sponsored by Nationwide Insurance. The award paid off less than a year later when a local farmer was rescued from a grain entrapment. (Photo courtesy of Nationwide Insurance.)

Thanks to a grant from Nationwide Insurance, Grant Corley is alive to see his 15 grandkids grow up.

In the fall of 2015, Corley, a farmer and seed dealer from Westphalia, Kansas, became trapped in a flow of soybeans inside a grain bin. Corley, his hired man and a truck driver were loading soybeans from the bin into a semi truck using a grain vacuum. “I don’t know whether I tripped or what, but I started to fall forward and caught myself with the hose. I stuck the hose straight down and was standing in the middle of the cone of moving grain,” Corley recalled.

“My first mistake was that I tried to pull the hose out. That pushed me in deeper and pretty quick I was chest deep in grain. And if you’re knee deep, you’re done.”

Like many grain bin entrapment, this happened quickly—within a few seconds.

He yelled for help, but couldn’t be heard over the sound of the tractor and grain vacuum. But the truck driver and employee soon figured out something was wrong. They shut the grain vacuum down, and called 911.

Grain tube to the rescue

It so happened that less than a year prior, the Westphalia Fire Department won a Grain Bin Rescue Tube, plus six hours of hands-on-training on how to use the tube, through a grant from Nationwide Insurance.

Within 15 minutes, the fire department arrived at Corley’s Seed Farm and less than 30 minutes, Grant was safely removed from the grain bin. “It seemed like forever, but was probably 45 minutes before I was removed,” he recalled.

He credited his employee and truck driver for their quick thinking, and the fire department for its quick response.

“If I’d have been by myself, I wouldn’t have made it,” he said. “My hands were above the grain and my phone in a pouch around my belt. Any movement caused more grain to collapse.”

Without a grain safety tube, the result could have been much more tragic. In 2015, 24 entrapments resulted in 14 deaths, according to Nationwide Insurance. In 2014, 38 entrapments killed 18 people.

“Deploying a grain rescue tube is the only way to safely remove someone trapped in grain,” said Brad Liggett, president of Nationwide Agribusiness. “Until we can convince all farmers and other grain handlers to develop a zero-entry mentality, we will continue to make tubes available.”

Nationwide began the Nominate Your Fire Department Contest in 2014, and has awarded tubes and training to 32 fire departments across 15 states since then.

“Grain bin accidents can tragically impact individuals, families and entire communities,” explained Paul Stevenson, Nationwide’s senior consultant in Risk Management. “Studies show that grain bin accidents often end in death. But they are preventable.

“As the No. 1 farm insurer in the U.S. and a leader in risk management solutions for commercial agribusinesses, we have a responsibility to do everything we can to help keep the ag community safe,” he said.

The Nominate Your Fire Department contest runs each year between Jan. 1 and May 31. “Nominations can be submitted by the public and we strongly encourage all fire departments and emergency response teams to self-nominate. Because we rely on donations to help fund the awarding of tubes and training, the number of winners and prizes are not known until the contest closes. The more money we raise—the more tubes we can award,” Davidson said.

The Grain Bin Rescue Tube is valued between $3,000 to $5,000 and the training session is valued up to $5,000.

Thankful

As part of the Nationwide contest provisions, the Westphalia Fire Department will share the grain tube with surrounding fire departments and first responders. Corley, who said he knew of two farmers who perished in grain bin accidents, said he hopes his story will keep others from entering a grain bin without taking precautionary measures.

For more information, visit www.ws4u.com and search “Grain Bin Safety Week.”

Bill Spiegel can be reached at bspiegel@hpj.com or 785-587-7796.

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