Saturday, November 5, 2011


Shortly after I became an EMT, I heard about a class for rural EMTs, called Farmedic. It was described as a class for EMTs to learn about farm rescues, and specifically about dealing with patients entrapped in large farm machinery.

Since there are probably more cows in this town than there are people, and possibly more farm machinery than cars, I thought it would be a good idea to take the class.

Problem was, I couldn't find one to take. The website (then, as now) didn't list any courses in the "schedule" section.  All it said was that they would teach courses "when requested."

So naturally, we contacted them to request one.  That's when we learned that in order to sponsor a course, you had to provide farm equipment that could be overturned, cut, and otherwise damaged or destroyed. Not so easy to come by.

This past September, I received an e-mail that announced a course offering in a nearby county. And there it was: Farmedic, at a place I could get to- and even a time I could get there. We signed up practically that moment.

We drove the hour to where the class was being held, and found quite an amiable group assembled. Most were from the host department, but there were a few who, like us, had come from a considerable distance.

The first thing we learned once the class started was this: Farmedic is NOT a class for EMTs.

It's a class for firefighters. It is about hazards on the farm, including information that would typically be taught in  HazMat, confined space, and high angle rescue classes. It is about extrication. There is very little covered that is about patient care. I have no idea whatsoever why the course is named the way it is- or why we had been led to believe that it was primarily for EMS.

That said, there is no reason why any rural EMT shouldn't take the class, and there is every reason why ALL rural firefighters should.

We learned about different types of silos and the hazards therein, as well as the hazards associated with grain bins. Both topics that have showed up in the news in the past few months, when workers and/or responders have been killed.

We toured a nearby farm to see first hand what kinds of large machinery there is that we'd need to know how to shut off, and to see how they handle manure- one of the biggest dangers on a farm.

But by far, the best part of the class was the hands on practice with extricating "patients" from farm equipment.  We had two pieces of equipment that we were able to use for several different scenarios.

The most important thing we had reinforced was not a surprise: teamwork is vital to success. Everyone had ideas for how to go about the rescue, and it was by listening to all of the ideas that we found what worked. We also learned that the "jaws" can't handle that kind of equipment. An important thing to know!

Our class ended up being delayed halfway through as the instructor and most of the students were deployed to various places to assist with flood recovery, but it was worth the wait. It isn't often that farm machinery is available to "play with" so take advantage of that opportunity when you can get it, rather than waiting until it happens "for real."

For one thing... injured "dummies" don't bleed, and they don't scream.
Although some of those new fancy simulation ones probably can!

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