Rescuers Train for Farm Accidents

Farm-related accidents don’t happen often in Alamance County, N.C.

But when everything from overturned tractors to injuries associated with grain bins do occur, rescue personnel want to be ready.

About 45 paramedics, volunteer firefighters and other rescuers from across the state spent the weekend learning what to expect when faced with a farm-related accident as well as the techniques necessary to per form safe rescues. The Farmedic course, a nationally recognized program designed at Cornell University, was offered through Alamance Community College.

Students spent Friday evening learning through lectures, said Scottie Emerson, one of three instructors and a Winston-Salem firefighter.

Hearing about how to perform the rescues was important, but it was during the two days of hands-on exercises Saturday and Sunday at Byrd Tractor & Supply in Burlington that class participants were able to understand how to do the job.

“You could not do this with just a lecture,” said Kelly Emerson, a course instructor and retired paramedic. “You have to do the hands on and get what won’t work. They have to see what won’t work and learn from that because it is not the everyday rescue.” The students were separated into three groups led by Scottie and Kelly Emerson and a third instructor, James Young, who is a law enforce ment officer with the Alleghany County Sheriff ‘s Department.

Students had to navigate their way through a variety of scenarios, including an overturned tractor, a person riding on the back of tractor, falling off and getting pinned beneath a tire as well as a person getting run over by a tractor while changing implements.

“They are actually trying to disentangle their patient from an overturned tractor,” Kelly Emerson said as she led the group through the rescue.

“They are using techniques that require lifting and stabilizing so they do no further harm.” Performing rescues for farm-related accidents or accidents involving heavy equipment, which can take place on interstates as well as city roads, creates challenges that paramedics, emergency medical technicians and fire fighters don’t face every day in motor vehicle wrecks.

“Tractors and farm implements are not like everyday cars and trucks on the high ways that most rescuers are used to dealing with,” Kelly Emerson said.

If accidents occurs on a farm, it’s often miles from a roadway in the middle of a field that can be tricky to access.

“Rescue vehicles can’t get out there,” said Richard Franklin, a full-time firefighter at Altamahaw-Ossipee Fire Department and volunteer training officer with the Alamance County Rescue Squad. “If it’s out in the field, you have to haul everything out to the patient.” Terrain, distance, weather, fuel leakage as well as catastrophic injuries all pose unique challenges. Even the shape of the equipment can make rescue much more complicated.

“You can sit and learn everything but until you actually put your hands on it — feel it, do it and understand the amount of work — there is nothing that can substitute that,” said Franklin who worked to get the course offered in Alamance County.

Typically, rescuers are taught about adhering to the “golden hour,” which means getting an injured patient from the scene of an accident into surgery at the hospital within an hour, Scottie Emerson said. When dealing with farm accidents, rescue personnel have to abandon that mindset.

“It’s not like going to a typical house call,” Scottie Emerson said.

The injured person might be found hours after the accident occurs. The farm equipment might still be running.

Many Understanding engineering principals and learning how to remove that equipment without causing more harm to the patient or to the people doing the rescue are key.

“The farm accident is not an everyday occurrence so that in and of itself is a challenge,” Kelly Emerson said. “… This type of program benefits all rescuers and EMS personnel.”