(Photo by Scott Welton, Staff)
SIKESTON -- The Sikeston Rescue Squad has received an $8,000 grant from the Monsanto Fund for grain bin rescue equipment and training.
The grant money will go toward the purchase of two rescue tubes, according to Rescue Squad member Capt. Ken Dicus of the Sikeston Department of Public Safety.
"They're about $4,000 each with the training included," Dicus said. "I don't think there are any like them in the area. That's why the grant was pretty big for us: it's a chance to get some equipment that nobody else has."
The equipment "will greatly reduce the time needed to rescue victims trapped under grain," Dicus said, and will benefit the entire region. "If somebody else needs the equipment it's readily available."
There are three main types of situations that cause workers to get trapped in grain bins.
One situation is when grain flowing downward from an auger draws a worker down into the funnel
The second is when a "bridge" of crusted grain over an air pocket collapses under the weight a of worker.
The third is when grain that has crusted up against the side of the bin breaks loose into an avalanche.
Once a grain bin worker is in the grain past their waist they are usually trapped and not able to free themselves without help, Dicus said.
"In this region, the various departments in southeast Missouri probably respond to four or five of these a year," Dicus said. "There were two fatalities in Missouri last year because of this."
The tubes are used to "build a protective area around the victim in the grain bin," Dicus explained.
Rescue workers for area grain bin entrapments have used pieces of plywood "almost like putting a box around the guy," Dicus said. "The grain moves around so freely it keeps collapsing around the victims and that's what entraps them."
Once a barrier is in place, rescuers can remove the grain from around the trapped victim -- often just by digging. "What we prefer to use if we can get them are vacuum trucks -- it's quicker," Dicus said.
The most recent grain bin entrapment in this area happened in February in New Madrid.
"The big problem we had down in New Madrid is while you are trying to dig around the victim the walls of grain keep coming down," Dicus said. "In one movement of the grain you can lose an hour's work."
A grain bin rescue tube is "almost like a large, plastic culvert that is in two pieces," according to Dicus. The two pieces are fit together around the victim to prevent more grain from falling in around them.
Dicus said the Rescue Squad was contacted by Monsanto about the grant.
"It is just them being a good community partner," he said. "They've got a large amount of grain bins in the region."
"Monsanto is committed to supporting the communities where we do business," said Barry Martin, site manager of Monsanto's Matthews soybean production facility. "Over the past several years, it has been a recurring event in our area of individuals being engulfed and suffocated in flowing grain. Monsanto is making this contribution in an effort to enhance the positive outcome of these rescue efforts."
Monsanto has also offered to let the Squad train with their grain facilities, according to Dicus.
Incorporated in 1964 as the philanthropic arm of the Monsanto Company, the Monsanto Fund is a private foundation with the primary objective being to improve the lives of people by bridging the gap between their needs and their resources.
The Monsanto Fund is focused on making grants in four main areas: nutritional well-being through agriculture; science education with an emphasis on professional development for teachers; the environment, which includes conservation, protection for biodiversity, clean water and the restoration of wildlife habitat; and improving the quality of life in communities where Monsanto employees live and work.
The Sikeston Rescue Squad's equipment is housed at Sikeston DPS fire stations, according to Dicus.
While "most of the squad is made up of Sikeston DPS officers," Dicus said, fire fighters from the surrounding communities are also included among the squad's members.