Farm Safety Day Sept. 11 in Albany was held to save lives.

“There had been farm accidents in the surrounding area,” said Albany Fire Chief Gary Winkels. “I contacted neighboring departments and we worked together. It was a cooperative effort.”

The day was organized through the efforts of nine area fire departments and other emergency responders. The two-part program had rescue demonstrations and speakers with the farm safety theme.

Jeff Rohde, of Grey Eagle, talked about surviving being caught in a bale conveyor.

“I rode the conveyor up the steps to the loft. I always did,” Rohde said. “I was going to jump off. It grabbed my foot, twisted it around and cut my skin tissue off.”

He stressed how important it is to slow down, take a break and ask for help once in a while. 

“Try to be safe,” Rohde said. “It’s a tough world out there.”

Rescue simulations by Albany, Melrose, New Munich, Freeport, Avon, Holdingford, St. Martin, Chain of Lakes and Richmond fire departments included a grain bin extraction, a person trapped under machinery and a machinery entanglement. There was also a Life Link helicopter for viewing, but it had to leave early on an emergency run. Also participating was Melrose Ambulance and the Stearns County Sheriff’s Office.

Rescue demonstrations took place in the Albany High School parking lot. Information sessions were in the Blattner Energy Arts Theatre and the Albany High School lobby.

The grain bin extraction demonstration took place in a large demolition waste removal bin filled with corn and with a fireman partially buried. Rescuers built a box around him to prevent the corn from rolling back, augured out enough corn to allow a safe removal using ropes and a harness. Melrose Fire Department safety instructor Mark “Bunker” Hill said there are two elements to the rescue – freeing the victim from the grain and removing the victim from the bin.

A mannequin trapped under a skid loader bucket was rescued by making sure the vehicle would not move, inflating airbags to raise the bucket and pulling the victim free. 

Specialized equipment, like the jaws of life and a power saw, were displayed, but not demonstrated, at the power take off entanglement station. A straw-filled mannequin was used to show how a running power take off could catch and wrap a body in a matter of seconds.

“They are not the best options,” said James Orbeck of the St. Martin Fire Department, about the two pieces of equipment. “Sometimes the metal is too hard to cut or the cutting tool creates sparks. Often the best implement is a toolbox.”

Those presenting information talked about the need for turning off equipment, walking around moving parts and getting help.

“Take the extra time to walk around the tractor, rather than stepping over a moving power take off,” Orbeck said. “It’s cheaper than going to the hospital.”

Stearns County dispatchers offered the following to help rescuers reach victims as soon as possible:

– Provide a name and address to the dispatcher.  

– Stay on the phone until told to disconnect.

– If possible, give updates on the victim’s condition.

– Place signs around a farm and near the phone giving the address, a contact person, a phone number and the county and township.

Farm accidents statistics were given out by Scott Carriveau, from Customized Fire Rescue Training, Inc. of Maple Lake. He started the presentation saying farming is perhaps the most hazardous job occupation. Research has generally shown that mining is the highest.

“But we are not collecting data like we could be,” he said.

He focused on grain bin accidents and information from Purdue University showing in 2020 there were 64 agricultural accidents in confined spaces and 50% of them were fatal. The percentage was higher in Minnesota. Illinois had the highest number of cases, followed by Minnesota. He anticipated the numbers in Minnesota would grow as more silo-granaries are built.

Speaker Becky Heinz, of Brooten, described surviving a family suicide and Emily Krekelberg talked about help for mental health on farms.

“The death of a loved one … sticks with you in good times and the worst of times,” Heinz said. “The guilt felt by survivors of a suicide death is unimaginable. I had to work hard to get through my guilt. I had to have a lot of faith and had to forgive myself.” 

She said if someone ever has an inkling of “maybe I should get help,” maybe they should. There are free resources available on farm health decisions. 

“They (resources) are not limited to mental health but can also help families cope with the day-to-day stress of the life style we chose,” Heinz said. 

Carriveau was impressed with the day, and said he would be organizing similar events in the area. 

Joe Gill, KASM farm director who served as the emcee, said if just one person’s life was saved by the day, it was worth it.