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University of Iowa News Release

June 6, 2003

I-CASH Offers Ag Safety Courses For Emergency Personnel

Many people are familiar with the "Jaws of Life," a piece of equipment used to free a person trapped in an automobile after a crash. However, many people aren't aware of the proper technique and equipment needed to assist an individual involved in a farming accident.

To help increase that awareness, Iowa's Center for Agricultural Safety and Health (I-CASH), based at the University of Iowa, offers agricultural rescue courses. Developed for firefighters, emergency medical technicians and other first-responders, the classes teach participants how and why farmers get involved in entrapments - from farm equipment to grain bins - and how to get them out.

"The class is a good chance for emergency personnel to experience hands-on extrication scenarios and to learn about their own equipment, as well as farm equipment," said LaMar Grafft, agricultural rescue instructor and rural health and safety educator for I-CASH.

I-CASH offers small, one- or two-hour courses on specific agricultural rescue issues, as well as a 16-hour weekend course that covers the basics of machinery trauma. The weekend class includes a tour of both a farm and a farm equipment dealer, classroom presentations and hands-on extrication scenarios ranging from a tractor rollover to a dummy caught in an auger or combine.

While primarily for first-responders, the class is also open to health care professionals such as emergency room doctors, nurses and flight nurses. For these professionals, the class provides a better understanding of how farming injuries occur and how to determine treatment, Grafft said.

I-CASH presents agricultural safety courses in local communities throughout Iowa at the request of fire and emergency departments. The courses are also presented at the National Education Center for Agricultural Safety (NECAS) in Peosta and at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids.

Grafft believes rescue courses like his are important because many people first on the scene in a farming accident lack the appropriate training or equipment, raising the likelihood that they may also become victims of the accident.

"Nationally, approximately 60 percent of confinement fatalities - people who are caught in tanks and pits, for example - are would-be rescuers, people who rush in to help without the proper training and equipment," Grafft said. "A lot of people don't understand the power and the force of the equipment and how quickly things can happen."

The hands-on extrication scenarios in a class depend on donated farm equipment, generally from local farmers. However, these donations can be limited, as most farmers are unable to donate large pieces of equipment, such as tractors. This problem was overcome recently at a course in La Porte City with the donation of two large tractors from John Deere.

The tractors were prototype models, which are built for testing new ideas and then usually scrapped after testing. They were donated on the condition that they would be scrapped after the LaPorte City program. Normally, the tractors the rescue program receives are small, 40- to 50-horsepower tractors that a small group of people could pick up and move. The Deere tractors, however, are 200- to 220-horsepower models and weigh about 11 tons, Grafft said.

"They allowed for some of the best training we've ever done," he said. "The Deere tractors recreated a more realistic scenario of what you're really going to find on a farm today. If we learn on the big stuff, we can always deal with the little stuff. If we learn on the little stuff, it's harder to adapt that to the big stuff. So the donation of the large tractors was a real boon."

Plans for future John Deere tractor donations are in the works.

To schedule an agricultural rescue course through I-CASH, contact Grafft at 319-335-4233 or via e-mail at

ICASH is a partnership of public and private agricultural health and safety organizations, including the UI, Iowa State University, the Iowa Department of Public Health, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, and a diverse group of private organizations.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Health Science Relations, 5139 Westlawn, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-1178

MEDIA CONTACT: David Pedersen, 319-335-8032, Writer: Jessie Rolph