Who Controls Emergency May Surprise You

First responders have broad powers at the scene of an accident.

You're unloading grain from a bin and realize someone went inside without telling you. The auger was running. Now they're nowhere to be found. The unthinkable but stark truth is that they're likely inside the bin, pulled under the sea of grain by the same force that sucks corn kernels from the top of the grain mass into the auger well.

"Once your legs are stuck up to your knees, you can't move," Field says. "You've usually got only about a minute if you're caught in flowing grain inside a bin before you're submerged. The force is much greater than most people can realize."

If several minutes have passed, response to these incidents usually becomes a recovery instead of a rescue attempt. But there are rare cases where someone was covered in grain and survived. "They're rare, but it has happened," Field notes.

The bottom line is that you must act- you can't stand by and do nothing. Your first instinct is to call '911' for help. That's good advice. Just be ready to listen to what the responders tell you to do once they arrive, Field notes.

"Many farmers aren't aware that Indiana has a law that basically gives complete control of the scene to the first trained responder upon the scene at an accident of any type," Field says. In fact, the law reads that he or she is in complete control, with their ability to control the situation legally being superseded by only one person- the governor. Otherwise, unless they relinquish control of the scene and operations there voluntarily, what they say goes, and they have the power to ask local law authorities for assistance in making sure that happens.

Unfortunately, the first responder doesn't always understand farm situations, Field notes. That's when conflict sometimes begin with farmers and neighbors who have already arrived on the scene. Grain bin suffocation accidents are especially notorious for such conflicts, since emotions run high and many first responders, unless they have a farm background, don't understand grain bin situations at all. It might be reversed if they were responding to someone in an explosion at a factory, the specialist notes but not at the farm.

What farmers don't often understand is that someone can tell you what you can and can't do on your own property. "It's the way the law is written in these unique situations," Field says.

Part of the answer is more training for first responders, so they do understand farm situations. That's expensive, and is a long-term project, Field acknowledges.

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