person partially submerged in a grain bin
GRAIN RESCUE: A rescue tube is placed around Tom Erickson, an Agtegra Cooperative employee, who is partially submerged in a grain bin in a Grain Engulfment Rescue demonstration conducted at Dakotafest.

Grain bin rescue: 9 steps to save a life

Follow these steps to rescue someone trapped in a grain bin.

If you must rescue someone trapped in a grain bin, do you know what to do?

Ken Hellevang, North Dakota State University Extension agricultural engineer, says to take these nine steps:

1. Shut off all grain-moving equipment.

2. Contact your local emergency rescue service or fire department.

3. Turn on the aeration or drying fan to push air into the grain mass.

4. Make sure the power to the auger is locked out so that rescuers aren’t injured. They should use safety lines and respirators, too.

5. If the person is partially submerged in the grain, build retaining wall around the person using a rescue tube, plywood sheets, sheet metal or other material to keep grain from flowing toward the person.

6. After the retaining wall is in place, remove grain from around the victim using shovels, buckets or vacuums.

7. If the person is completely submerged in the grain, cut two or more V- or U shaped holes in the sides of the bins to unload the grain. The holes should be spaced opposite each other around the bin. If the hole or holes are all on the same side of the bin, it could collapse as the grain flows out.

8. Don’t panic, even if the victim's condition appears grim. People have survived submersion in grain for up to two hours. Sometimes, the victim can still breathe while buried in the grain.

9. Apply care to the victim as soon as possible, providing breathing assistance, maintenance of body temperature and emotional support. Plan ahead for victim removal procedures.

Grain bin entrapments are serious accidents. "Make sure everyone, including family and employees, working around stored grain understands the hazards and proper safety procedures," Hellevang advises.

For more information, see the NDSU publication, "Caught in the Grain."

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