First responders learn valuable lessons on how to deal with a farm crisis

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staff, Gazette
Sunday, April 7, 2013

— On a windy Saturday afternoon just off Highway 14, things weren’t looking good for the dummy pinned beneath an overturned John Deere tractor.

It had taken the medical crew a long time to even reach their trapped plastic patient, while eight firefighters struggled to lift the hulk of metal crushing his chest.

The dummy didn’t have much of a chance to begin with. But things were getting worse because the medics couldn’t reach him quickly, and two failed attempts to lift the tractor cost firefighters precious minutes.

“Let’s go to Plan C,” instructor Pat McCullough called out. “We need it now or we’ll need a coroner.”

The firefighters working on the John Deere, and another team of first responders at a nearby tractor, had a tough time getting their dummies out from under the heavy farm equipment.

But that was the point.

Thirty firefighters, paramedics and emergency medical technicians from around southern Wisconsin came to Evansville Saturday for hands-on training in how to rescue people from rolled-over tractors.

For rural fire departments that are often called on to save people from accidents on farms, it was an opportunity to get training in one of the most difficult situations they could face.

“It’s so vitally important, but it’s really an overlooked thing,” said Mark Baker from State Line Farm Rescue, which administered the training.

Firefighters train all the time for car crashes or house fires, but rarely learn about how to save people from farm accidents, Baker said, which can be particularly difficult. Baker’s company teaches departments around the Midwest about tractor rollovers and other scenarios that can injure or kill people working on farms.

Saturday’s training, which was sponsored by Mercy Health System, began with a morning in the classroom, then moved to the field.

Amid rusting old farm equipment at Worthington Ag Parts north of Evansville, the crews practiced the steps that go into freeing someone trapped beneath a tractor.

They had to shore up the tractor with blocks of wood, give aid to a patient while pinned, lift the heavy machinery with air bags or the jaws of life and pull the injured individual out.

Through it all, crews of firefighters and medics had to be on the same page about who is doing what in a high-pressure situation.

Doing any of those complicated jobs wrong could prove deadly in a real-world accident. Getting a chance to practice them with real equipment (and close-to-real patients) gives first responders valuable experience, instructor Karen Daub-Larson said.

“If we can give them a little bit of knowledge … the next time they get to a farm injury it won’t be so unheard of,” she said.

The team’s first extrication—getting the pinned dummy out from under the John Deere—didn’t go well.

McCullough, Daub-Larson and other instructors pointed out what went wrong, and how the crews could improve it. When they had a second shot at extricating a dummy, the medics got to the patient quicker and the whole process seemed to run much smoother.

The team still made mistakes, and instructors still pointed them out.

But, of course, that was the point.

Last updated: 10:28 am Tuesday, July 2, 2013

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