Fire department demonstrates new grain entrapment rescue device

Jason Kerr
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The Prince Albert Fire Department’s most recent acquisition was on display Saturday as members demonstrated their new grain entrapment rescue device.

Members of the Prince Albert Fire Department conduct a training exercise with their newly acquired grain entrapment rescue device.  The new equipment will help firefighters rescue anyone trapped or submerged under grain.  Flaman Sales and Rentals provided the farm equipment for the demonstration.

The new equipment will help firefighters aid anyone who becomes trapped under flowing piles of grain, either in bins, silos or the back of trucks.

Fire department chief Jason Everitt said he hopes they never have to use the device, but it’s good to be fully prepared.

“When you actually look at the number of people who are involved in the movement of grain and the storage of grain, those potentials (for problems) do exist, and because of the large rural area that we provide service to, this became an important initiative for us.”

The new device contains several sheets of lightweight but durable metal that are pushed into the grain near the trapped person.  The pieces click together to produce a barricade so grain inside can be removed without more taking its place.

The process can be completed in less than ten minutes when the buried person is partly visible, although uncovering someone who is fully submerged can be more difficult.

“If the grain or material isn’t moving it’s relatively stable, but as soon as it starts flowing it behaves very much like a thick liquid,” Everitt explained.  “You lose all ability, even to self-rescue, so it become very important to have the tools to be able to get in there and create a safe zone around the person.”

Grain entrapment isn’t common, but it does happen.  Less than a month ago, three girls in Alberta suffocated after becoming trapped in the back of a grain truck filled with canola.  A Saskatchewan teenager and his grandfather also suffocated earlier this year in Burstall, a town near the Alberta border.

“It comes down to risk management,” Everitt said.  “We’ve looked at this for a while now and, in fact, this particular tool was decided upon and purchased before these incidents had happened, so we were well on our way to getting a better capacity to manage these types of events.”

The equipment isn’t just used for grain either.  Everitt said other material like sand, and even manure, can cause similar problems, so the department will be well prepared.

Ideally, however, Everitt hopes local residents will take the necessary precautions to make sure the only thing they have to do is train with it.

“We really advocate prevention.  We want to encourage people in rural communities not to put themselves in situations that are going to get them into trouble and require the use of this particular piece of equipment, but we want to be prepared in the event that it does happen.”

@kerr_jas •

Grain differences

When it comes to entrapment, not all grains act the same way.  The Prince Albert Fire Department used flax during their demonstration on Saturday.  It’s one of the more unstable grains farmers will run into, along with canola.

Everitt said wheat and barley grains, being larger, tend to more easily bind together, so the risk isn’t as high, but there is still some danger.

Wet grain can also cause problems, since it sticks together and gives the illusion of being solid, even when it’s not.

Geographic location: Alberta, Saskatchewan, Burstall

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