UArk Extension, rope rescue team offer grain bin safety training July 19

• By Ryan McGeeney •

grain bin rescue training
Several Farm Bureaus have hosted grain bin safety and rescue training courses for farmers, farm employees and first responders — photo courtesy Mississippi Farm Bureau

Firefighters, grain bin operators and farm workers in Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi are invited to attend an upcoming grain bin safety course on Monday, July 19 at the McGehee Men’s Club in McGehee, Arkansas.

The class is designed to teach the skills necessary to rescue an individual who has become partially or completely engulfed in grain within a bin or silo. John David Farabough, agricultural agent for the Desha County Cooperative Extension Service in McGehee, said there have been at least two known grain elevator fatalities in the southeast Arkansas area in the past decade.

According to Purdue University, there were 35 grain-related entrapments in 2020, with 20 of them being fatal.

“No one should ever really go into a grain bin facility to begin with,” Farabough said.

“Unfortunately, during harvest time and cleanout, it does happen.”

Workers sometimes enter grain elevators to investigate the source of a stoppage when operators are attempting to unload grain from the structure. Farabough said that grain, once in an elevator or similar storage facility, tends to form a crust on top, which may seem stable. Under the pressure of a human step, however, that crust can collapse, and an individual can quickly become partially or completely engulfed in grain.

“If you go into a grain bin, you need to be tethered, no matter what,” Farabough said.

Farabough, who is also an assistant fire chief with a local fire department in Desha County, is a member of a grain bin extraction team, known as the South Arkansas Rope Rescue Team. The team was formed in 2014, by Jacob Appleberry, a Desha County farmer and a firefighter with the Tillar Fire Department, and several other farming and fire experts in the area.

Event specifics

Appleberry said the day-long course will be divided into two portions — classroom instruction and hands-on practice. Because many farm workers in Arkansas and surrounding states speak Spanish as their first language, Spanish translators will be working with the English-speaking instructors, Appleberry said.

Attendees will be divided into primarily English-speaking and primarily Spanish-speaking groups; one group will begin with classroom instruction while the other group participates in the hands-on practicum and will trade places midway through the day.

There is no cost to attend the event, which is sponsored by the Farm Bureau Association, and presented by the Safety and Technical Rescue Association. Registration is not required, but Farabough asked that interested individuals RSVP with his office to ensure organizers will have enough food prepared to feed attendees. The class is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. and conclude at 4 p.m. The McGehee Men’s Club is located at 1 S. Airport Rd. in McGehee.

To RSVP for the course, contact the Desha County Cooperative Extension Service office at 870-222-6858 or by email at, or contact Jacob Appleberry at 870-818-1433.

For additional information, see the extension publication FSA1010, “Grain Bin Entrapment and Engulfment — Causes, Prevention and Rescue.” 

Read more about grain bin rescues

Ryan McGeeney is a communications specialist with the University of Arkansas. He may be reached at

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