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Sessions help responders train for farm scenarios

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NEIL W. JOHNSON
September 13, 2010
— It’s a wet Sunday night deep in the harvest season, and something is stuck in the combine’s reel. The operator, tired from a 14-hour workday, climbs down and straddles the rain-soaked front of the huge machine.

In an instant, he slips. Chains and moving parts whine. Then, pain.


It’s a scenario that local emergency responders don’t often see, but farming-related accidents happen, and with greater frequency during the fall harvest season, when farmers are working long hours and are under pressure to finish work, experts say.


That’s why about 60 emergency responders from a dozen departments in Rock, Green and Dane counties practiced responding to simulated farming accidents Saturday at Worthington Ag Parts in rural Evansville.


The training event was sponsored by the UW Extension and the Farm Bureaus of Rock, Green, and Dane counties.


The goal: To show firefighters, police and emergency technicians how to handle everything from livestock attacks to farm chemical spills to tractor rollovers.


“People don’t have a lot of farm background anymore,” said Nolan Andersen, a livestock and dairy agent from the Dane County UW Extension office and a coordinator at the training sessions.


“If these crews get called out on a farm accident, we want them to keep safe while they’re trying to rescue a farm person who’s already injured,” he said.


At one training station, emergency crews practiced extricating a straw dummy with its arm stuck in pulleys on a combine. The crews learned how to work in tight quarters, and how to dismantle moving parts on big machinery.


“The difficulty of it is getting stuff apart. Compared to a car, it’s not as easy to get some of these things dismantled, or to get our equipment to work,” said Edgerton firefighter B.J. Kienbaum.


At another station, Evansville firefighter Joe Ponkauskas practiced using straps to stabilize the wheels of a tractor that was overturned and lying on a straw dummy, crushing its chest.


The sessions also showed emergency crews the dangers of farm chemicals.


Red Brewer, an agent from Frontier FS in Brodhead, dropped grapes into a bucket of anhydrous ammonia, a common field chemical, to show people how it can freeze skin and body parts on contact.


Brewer pulled out a grape that was frozen solid and split wide open.


“That’s what will happen to your eye if anhydrous gets splashed in your face,” Brewer said.


Other stations offered demonstrations on how to safely move farm animals that have attacked and injured people.


Evansville fire Captain Dennis Cooper said the training sessions were valuable because they put firefighters, emergency technicians and police together in simulated scenarios.


“It’s good to interact with people so that everyone knows what to do before something like this really happens, and you show up in a field somewhere in the middle of the night,” he said.



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