Dr. Doug Kingman
isn't just an expert on grain bin hazards - he
invented a way to escape them.
Kingman, an associate professor of agricultural mechanization with the department of agricultural and industrial sciences at Sam Houston State University, studied grain bin engulfment prevention and rescue while he was getting his master's and doctorate degrees from Purdue University.
"I specifically studied the contributing factors to engulfment," he
"I traveled to 14 different states and visited with victims of engulfment, and did 9 interviews with families that had lost somebody in an engulfment."
Kingman continued that work when he became an educator.
Then, while he was an assistant professor at Illinois State University, he began development of a device that later became patented.
The Liberty Grain Rescue Tube, sold by Liberty Rescue Systems of Indiana, is employed when the victim of an engulfment still has his or her head above the grain.
explains, "The Tube becomes a cofferdam" - that is, an enclosure separating the person from the grain, similarly to a pocket used to enable work done at the bottom of a body of water.
"It's taken through even the smallest entryways into a grain bin.
says the tube has 4 documented rescues, adding, "We think it's been used more than that."
Suffocation in grain
Over half the engulfments with which Kingman
is familiar involve corn.
In most cases, the stored grain had become moldy or otherwise out of condition.
"The farmer or worker would enter the bin - generally by themselves - and become engulfed because either the grain flows upon then and traps them, or they have their unloading equipment operating and they're pulled under," he
says Extension Services around the country have become better over the years at educating farmers on the hazards of entering bins full of stored grain.
Although the number of reported engulfments has remained the same or slightly increased, he
thinks that's a result of improved surveillance techniques.
"I'm not sure that the actual number of cases is increasing, but definitely we're able to find them easier through newspaper articles and other means," he
What's changed, Kingman
says, is the knowledge base of the rescue worker.
says based on training sessions he's
conducted, "You're starting to see people that are responding to rural emergencies that don't have a farm background.
"Most of the engulfments that we found in the Purdue database occurred in grain bins that are 20,000 bushels or less," says Kingman
"Those are also older bins, and I can't prove it but I think they're also bins you don't use (every year).
You have a bumper crop, you start using an old bin, and the grain goes out of condition."
Any grain can mold, he
There have been fatal engulfments documented in wheat, sunflowers and even rice.
"Any time you have a grain bin," says Kingman
, "you have an industrial-type facility that needs to be treated with respect.