Daily American, Somerset, Pa., Wednesday, October 7, 1998
New Centerville Fire Company Unit Specializes in Farm rescue
By Vicki Rock - Staff Writer
New Centerville, PA
Farmer Joe's arm was caught in the rollers of a corn harvester and his buddy, Silent Sam, was pinned under the tractor wheel.
Lucky for them they were a couple of dummies - the straw and cloth kind.
New Centerville and Rural Fire Company use the dummies for farm rescue training sessions. Earlier this week, they put on a demonstration for reporters.
Firefighters put blocks of wood behind the harvester and tractor wheels to keep them from rolling and checked to make sure the machinery was turned off. Crews worked to free Joe's arm, then emergency medical technicians place him on a backboard to carry him to a stretcher and into the ambulance. He was driven off.
While at first glance Silent Sam appeared to be permanently silent, emergency medical technicians assessed him and said he was still living. Airbags - one with the ability to lift 72 tons - were brought in to lift the tractor. Instead of taking him from the scene, firefighters threw his straw-filled body into the power takeoff shaft, then into the rollers, to demonstrate how deadly the equipment could be. Straw flew everywhere. Joe and Sam regularly give thier lives so fire fighters can train for real-life rescues.
New Centerville and Berlin fire departments have the only farm rescue teams in Somerset County, according to Jim Saylor, third assistant fire cheif. But other departments have some members trained in farm rescues.
Larry Saylor, second assistant fire chief, said because the New Centerville company is a mutual aid department, it is called on to advise other fire departments in Somerset County on farm rescues. Many times they have been called by departments from out of the county, including some in Ohio, Deep Creek, Md., Fayette,Westmoreland, Indiana, and Greene counties.
"We've got the reputation for farm rescues," he said. "We promote it during the (Farmers & Threshermen's) Jubilee and other departments know aboutr it."
New Centerville started the farm rescue team in 1982. the big push to start a team occurred because of two incidents which happened in another part of the state. Four firefighters died trying to rescue a farmer, and then each other, from a manure pit because they went in without air masks, Larry said. Then the metal top of a silo blew off, killing firefighters fighting a silo fire. Members of the new Centerville company decided it was time for special training.
Now about half of the 70 active members of the department are trained for farm rescues. The farm rescue trainig started through Penn State University, but was then taken oveer by Alfred State College in New York. New Centerville's department also has certified instructors in rescues and two paramedic instructors.
The department has special farm rescue equipment, including a plasma cutter which cuts metal before it heats, repelling gear, various kinds of gas monitors, a heat probe and lighting. It also has confined space air masks. these masks use 200-foot air hoses connected to the fire truck instead of back tanks. that allows the firemen to get into confined spaces such as a silo, on a rescue.
While other departments know they can call on New centerville for help in a rescue, New centerville knows it can call on the others, too, Jim said. If they need a tower ladder to help bring someone down from a silo, Somerset is called, he said. Others will help with whatever equipment and manpower they have available.
"We all have the same goal - getting that patient to the trauma center within the golden hour, on hour from when the accident happened," he said.
The farm rescue team also c alls neighboring farmers and equipment dealers when an accident happens, Jim said, because they know the equipment and may know a better way of freeing the injured farmer.
"This is the time of year when most farm accidents happen," Larry said. "The corn is ready. Farmers are working from early in the morning to late at night, trying to eat the weather. They're tired and they take unnecessary chances. Accidents happen most in the fall and the spring. And if the field's wet, it's more dangerous. Most are killed in tractor turnovers. the power takeoff shaft is deadly. farmers are working directly over the shaft, and they climb over it instead of going around. It can grab your clothes and tear a limb off in a second. Silos are dangerous because the gas will suffocate you."
Tractor rollo vers are the most common kind of farm accident in this area, he said. Some farmers allow their children to ride on the tractor on the fender or back of the tractor while it is being operated, which is extremely dangerous. That was how Silent Sam ended under the wheel.
"The average tractor weighs from 12,000 to 20,000 pounds," Jim said. "Depending on the soil, we'll either be coming to rescue or a (body) recovery. We don't like to have to do recoveries. My hat's off to all farmers - they're hard workers. But we see kids riding hay bailers and wagons, and if the jar bar pin comes out, we have three or four injuries real quick."
Scheffel Equipment, somerset, brought in the corn harvester and tractor for the demonstration. Dennis Scheffel said it is important for farmers on the roadways to use triangle signs, which aren't faded, and lights so drivers can see the farm equipment ahead. There have been a number of rear-end collisions because drivers of cars couldn't see the equipment until they were on top of it, Larry said.
Farmers should also use all the safety equipment, including safety chains, shields and seatbelts and rollbars if the tractor is equipped with them.
"Don't take riders, especially kids, on the equipment," scheffel said. "Never start a tractor from the ground. Make sure the safety equipment is working. We can replace the equipment, but not people."
About two or three serious farm accidents occur each year, Larry said. Many less serious accidents go unreported. Just go to a farm auction and see how many farmers' hands going up to bid are minus some fingers, he joked.
"It's very difficult to get farmers out for safety education programs," Jim said. "they're too busy. We understand it's a busy time of year. But stand back, think safety and take an extra minute to take precautions."
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