Omaha Fire Department trains for potential grain bin rescues

Posted at 6:18 PM, Jul 26, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-26 19:17:59-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — It's common for the Omaha Fire Department to respond to call outs for rescues. But one rescue they don't see often is for people trapped in grain bins. Even though the rescue call is uncommon, it's still necessary they are trained to respond if that call comes in.

Five seconds is all it takes to become trapped in a grain bin. "It's very close to what it would be like being engulfed with quicksand,” said Nick Gangwish, MCC Fire Science Instructor. And with grain bins spread across rural Nebraska and Omaha, training for rescue crews is essential. “Something that all departments big or small need to train on,” said Terry Barney, MCC Instructor.

Even though grain bin rescues are unique. “They'll be in there doing work and it collapses down on them and that's when they'll call the fire department in to come help them out,” said Barney. “You don't want to show up on a rescue without ever having seen this equipment or used it before,” said Gangwish.

16 members of the Omaha Fire Department strapped on their harnesses Friday as they attempted to rescue a mannequin trapped inside a grain bin.

Here's how they do it. They surround the mannequin in aluminum panels. Sink the panels into the grain. Secure the mannequin to a rope. Remove the grain around them. Then bring them down to safety.

Some people may think that it would just be easier to drain the grain out of the bottom, but the person could actually fall down with the grain. “You can actually cut holes in the bottom of the grain bin, but you need to have them tied off at first and you need to have them so that they don't sink down with the grain,” said Barney.

Depending on the size of the grain bin and how deep down the trapped person is, rescue crews can usually bring the person to safety between a half hour to an hour. While this training may be mandatory, for some it has a personal connection. “I'm invested in the rural community and I want to see good things because that's kind of where my background comes from so this is kind of a passion of mine helping those that I kind of grew up with,” said Gangwish.

The instructors in charge of today's training recommend to avoid becoming trapped in a grain bin you should always wear a harness to make sure you don't sink below waist deep. And have somebody outside the bin to assist if you do become stuck.