MARSHALL - A truck driver's life is hard, and often dangerous, but Hollie Noble went above and beyond the call of duty on Friday evening when she volunteered to be buried up to her waist in soybeans in the trailer of her own truck.
Noble was assisting in a training exercise at CHS agricultural service company on Friday evening for CHS employees, and fire and rescue personnel from several local fire departments. Dale Ekdahl brought grain bin rescue tubes his company manufactures to CHS Marshall to train them how to use it to extricate a person buried in grain.
"I'm a truck driver, and I'm learning because I load out of a lot of farms." Noble said.
Photo by Steve Browne
Truck driver Hollie Noble volunteered to be buried up to her waist in soybeans in her own truck for this exercise to familiarize area fire and rescue personnel with this grain bin rescue tube at CHS on Friday.
Ekdahl's system is an interlocking set of curved metal panels with ladder steps on the outside. Locked together they form a cofferdam that can be driven into the grain around a trapped person, relieving the pressure so rescue personnel can pull them out.
Noble stood on the grain in the hopper trailer directly about the gate at the bottom. Someone would open the gate allowing the soybeans to flow out from underneath her, simulating an avalanche. As Noble sunk in the soybeans, firemen shoved beans around her until she was up to her waist. Then they'd pound in one panel at a time, linking them up into a tube. Noble went through this several times Friday evening for the exercise.
Ekdahl said here is so much pressure on a person buried only up to their waist in grain that if rescuers attempted to pull them out with a rope and a truck, it would tear them in half. Twenty-six people in America died engulfed in grain last year.
"That was about a 50 percent increase over last year, attributed to crop quality," Ekdahl said. "It came out really wet and when it went into bins it heated, crusted, and stuck to walls. Augers got stuck and when farmers would get in to try in fix them, it caused avalanches."
CHS Marshall has purchased four of the systems to donate to fire departments in Marshall, Ruthton, Tracy, Cottonwood, and Elkton, S.D., for about $900 each for a set of panels and sponsored the training, which runs about $2,500.
"CHS is my biggest customer by far," Ekdahl said. "So I always take an interest when they call."
Before grain bin rescue tubes became available local fire departments had to rely on strips of plywood, which can be awkward to use and do not seal perfectly around a victim stuck in the grain.
"If we get a farmer engulfed in a grain bin, this is the tool to get him out," said Denny Alexander, regional safety director for CHS Marshall."