Special ops team practices silo rescue
For some members of the Lehigh County Special Operations Team, based in South Whitehall Township, a trip to outlying farmland may be a new experience.
But, the skills of these volunteers would be vital if there were an emergency at a nearby farm and a worker needed to be rescued from a silo filled with corn silage, possibly some 70 feet in height.
With this in mind, Penn State Extension, Lehigh County, arranged and paid for a training session for the special operations volunteers.
This is the first silo rescue training for Penn State, which will be used to develop protocols for these type of rescues across the commonwealth, according to Penn State’s Managing Agricultural Emergencies Director Dave Hill.
The Agricultural Rescue Training Program at Penn State is concerned with developing and delivering training programs to “help emergency personnel become aware of the many hazards they will face while managing an agricultural emergency...and to understand the importance of preplanning for various farm emergencies in their communities.”
In addition to members of the special operations team, taking part in the Nov. 7 session at Crystal Spring Farm, Schnecksville, were volunteer firefighters from Cetronia, South Whitehall; Neffs and Schnecksville, North Whitehall; and the City of Allentown Paramedics.
Kevin McIntyre, Barry Eigen and Chad Gorr represented the Cetronia fire crew operating South Whitehall Tower 331.
“I always like to have people see what goes on behind the scenes,” McIntyre said, regarding media coverage of the event. “We have a good working relationship.”
According to Matt Brett, of Kempton, an Allentown paramedic, all six of the paramedics are trained in the technical rescue level and inter-train and respond with the special operations team, which covers Berks, Lehigh, Northampton and Carbon counties.
Instructors from Penn State’s Managing Agricultural Emergencies were Hill and Irwin Hamm of Lynn Township.
According to Hamm, if there were an emergency at a farm, local firefighters would respond to the scene first, evaluate the situation, then if more technical assistance was needed, they would call in the special operations team.
“Firefighters get good at car wrecks, which they have every day,” Hamm said. “Penn State provides special training for rescues on a farm.”
Hill said after the training, they would all get together to develop protocols for silo rescues for other special operations teams across the commonwealth.
“During the earlier lecture, I asked how many of the team members felt comfortable on a farm,” Hill said. “Only three hands went up. There is a learning curve here.”
Hill said there is not a whole lot of knowledge out there about what farmers do.
“I am big on building bridges,” he said.
Shawn Lubenetski of Lehigh Township, a member of the special operations team, the Emmaus Fire Company, and a Penn State Managing Agricultural Emergencies instructor, drew a picture of how the rescue was to proceed.
“We need to get everybody on the same page as to how the rescue will go down, so there is no confusion,” Lubenetski said.
At the training’s conclusion, Hamm thanked the Sell family for allowing the team to practice at the farm and Lehigh County Penn State Extension for paying for the teaching session.