Helping Responders Handle Farm Emergencies

In a piece on, Davis Hill, manager of Penn State Extension’s Managing Agricultural Emergencies program, sheds some light on how emergency personnel and farm owners can work together to better handle emergencies.

He says even in rural areas, many emergency responders aren’t familiar with farm situations. Here’s an excerpt from the base, where Hill provides an example:

As an example, he cited a real situation that occurred last year, when farm employee was unloading corn from a bin. The grain was not flowing properly from the auger, and the employee suspected that there was clumping and bridging occurring. This happens on occasion, and the normal solution is to enter the bin to break up the clumps.

“Right or wrong, they do this with the auger running, and this practice always has been successful at getting the grain to flow normally again,” Hill said. “So the employee entered while his employer watched from the top-entry hatch. When the employee fell into a cavity up to his waist, the employer immediately shut off the power to the unloading auger.”

Being entrapped to the waist, the employee needed help to get out. After several unsuccessful rescue attempts, the employer called 911.

“When emergency responders arrived, they had no experience with grain bins, flowing grain or grain bin rescue,” Hill said. “At one point there were 25 responders inside this bin attempting to move grain away from the employee. It took more than five hours to free him.”

Compare that scenario to a similar event that occurred on another farm, where an employee was entrapped and the employer and other workers attempted to rescue him before calling 911. But this time the responders knew what to do — they had pre-planned this farm, so proper resources were called in. As a result, the employee was released from the entrapment and was out of the bin in just over an hour. And only eight emergency responders were needed on the scene, with only two going into the bin.

“Farms have many hazards that can cause serious injuries and deaths and other catastrophic emergencies,” Hill said in the article. “As a farm operator, you don’t often ask for help, especially from people who are not farmers or agribusiness people. When farm emergencies happen, however, you really need to know that those who are coming to manage the crises are prepared to do the right things to save lives and preserve property.”

The solution? Farm owners should develop an emergency action plan or “pre-plan.” This plan will help save time and help emergency responders make quick decisions.

Hill’s Tips for creating the plan:

  • Download an aerial map of the farm
  • Create a map legend with information for where on the property gas, pesticides and the main electric shutoffs can be found.
  • Identify all the structures on the map and their purpose/what’s stored in them.
  • List contact information for principal owners and managers of the businesses and how they can be reached at all hours.


Here is some more information about responding to emergencies on farms:

For more information, see the original article here: