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Almost six years ago I was sitting at my Ohio Farm Bureau Annual Meeting when my phone began vibrating and my screen lit up “Mom.” For a little background, I talk to my mom daily and had already told her I wouldn’t be able to talk until evening because of my responsibilities at the meeting. Seconds later, my phone buzzed again.
Now with service in southeastern Ohio I thought maybe she dropped the call. But when that third buzz came through, I instantly knew, something was wrong. I signaled a co-worker to cover my spot and walked outside the room as the fourth buzz began. “Sis, it’s your dad.”
In those four words, I felt the bottom of our little world fall out. It was deer gun season, and our hunting group was headed out for the morning. My dad stayed behind as he gave the hunters time to get to their standing spots, which isn’t uncommon. However, that morning he didn’t show up, and our group couldn’t get him on the radio. My brother returned home to find him standing in our driveway confused and unable to remember that they were hunting. That’s when he saw the blood coming from my dad’s ear and the bent handlebars and scratches on the four-wheeler.
Within three hours of the accident, my dad didn’t know his wife of 32 years, his children, grandchildren, or even that he was hurt. The doctors sat my family down and told us that my dad, the man who never stopped, the man who led our family, had a traumatic brain injury and time would only tell the extent. Like many of you, ATVs were (and still are) our most common mode of transportation on the farm and we took for granted that it would never happen to us, and yet there we sat with my mom, discussing the what ifs. What if he never remembered us, what if he couldn’t remember how to work on equipment, what if he couldn’t weld or farm anymore? I’ll never forget my mom asking “What do we do if he can’t do it anymore?” and “What if we need to sell it all?”
We weren’t prepared for the worst and my family had never had those difficult conversations that follow the “what if’”s or the “when it happens. As humans, we instinctively stick with ignoring difficult conversations and thoughts. If it isn’t something we want to deal with, we tend to simply — not deal with it.
This past weekend, Trumbull County Farm Bureau held a Grain Bin Safety Rescue Training. Saturday’s training was for our emergency responders and included classroom and hands-on training by the Ohio Fire Academy. On Sunday, we held a Grain Safety Program for farmers and local grain co-ops. The engagement of attendees was fantastic. One attendee, a farm wife, explained that the thought of this training made her anxious and nauseous. But she stepped out of her comfort zone and participated, and I’m confident she walked away with a better understanding of the dangers, but more importantly, how to handle the situation “when it occurs.”
When our community comes together to bring seminars, workshops and trainings, we urge you to attend — even if you aren’t necessarily directly impacted. Life is busy, especially on the farm, but there is no better way to prevent tragedy than to be prepared. This training was designed to remind you of the “what if’s” and to help you navigate the “when it happens.” As farmers, we tend to wear many hats, and ensuring you, your family, and your employees are safe should be the most important.
My dad healed and our family has navigated the minor changes that accompany a brain injury, but one thing we are constantly reminded of is that instead of planning for the “what if,” we should be planning and prepared for the “when it happens.”
Reacting correctly can save a life. Having those difficult conversations before an accident or tragedy can save a family, a farm, a legacy.
Here are some interesting facts from our partners at Nationwide Agribusiness regarding injuries and fatalities surrounding grain bins:
• Suffocation from engulfment or oxygen-deficient atmospheres is the leading cause of death in grain accidents.
• In four seconds, an adult can sink knee-deep in flowing grain and be rendered unable to free themselves without help.
• Nearly 400 grain entrapments have been recorded in the past 10 years. It’s estimated an additional 30 percent of cases go unreported.
• In 2019, there were 38 grain entrapment cases — a 27% increase over 2018 and a four-year high.
• Grain entrapment deaths spiked in late 2019 and early 2020 as a result of wet harvest conditions — a United Press International report showed there were 19 deaths from August 2019 to mid-January 2020 alone, more than all of 2018.
• Historically, 70% of grain entrapments have occurred on farms vs. commercial facilities.
• Many of these farming accidents involve young people who often lack a good understanding of the potential dangers and proper safety procedures.
Submitted by Mandy Orahood, an organization director for Ohio Farm Bureau Federation serving Ashtabula, Geauga, Lake, and Trumbull counties.
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