Safety and Rescue Training Saves the Life of Farmer Trapped in Grain Bin

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UT Extension and Partners Provide Instruction and Equipment for Farmers and Rescue Personnel

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Hours of training and thousands of dollars for equipment paid off recently when Lawrence County rescue personnel saved the life of a farmer trapped in a grain bin.

Each year across the United States, grain bin accidents claim the lives of farmers, producers, their employees or family members. With the increase in the size and number of grain bins in Tennessee, the likelihood of accidents also increases. This is why Tennessee Grain Bin Safety and Rescue Awareness Training was created and made available since 2020 through a partnership between the University of Tennessee and Tennessee State University Extension, Tennessee AgrAbility and the Tennessee Association of Rescue Squads (TARS).

Since the first training in March 2020 in Carroll County, Tennessee, 57 Extension agents, 41 ag producers and 386 rescue personnel have been trained. During the training, participants experience what it is like to be trapped and unable to move by just standing at least knee-deep in grain or corn. As part of the training, participating counties are recommended to purchase grain rescue “turtle” tubes and a system called the “Great Wall of Rescue” to help first responders move the grain away from the trapped person, allowing them to move and be freed.

The training has saved lives. Lawrence County first responders put their training to the test when a farmer became trapped in a grain bin on November 29, 2023, in the town of Ethridge. Fire chief Nathan Keeton reported the farmer was 90 percent entrapped in corn. Crews provided medical assistance and used the turtle tube and Great Wall tubes around the farmer to stabilize the corn, which was then removed by vacuum. No injuries were reported.

“At each training, I tell the audience that I hope they never have to use the rescue tubes except for training.  (On November 29) I received a call and text I had hoped would never happen,” said Joetta White, UT Extension specialist with Tennessee AgrAbility who coordinates the trainings. “Everyone who worked the scene had been trained in grain bin rescue, and it paid off. There was a rescue and not a fatality.”

TARS personnel have conducted advanced trainings and spoken to more than 6,700 people in Tennessee, Alabama, Kentucky, Georgia, South Carolina and Missouri. Tennessee AgrAbility, a part of UT Extension started in 1994, educates and assists farmers to enhance quality of life and preserve livelihoods for farm families touched by disability or physical tragedy.

Brian Robinson, the state training coordinator for TARS, credits many organizations and people working together to make it possible to save lives and prevent accidents.

“Four years ago, across the state of Tennessee, resources and training for these types of incidents was very limited and minimal. From an idea to learning from Dale Dobson with the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, to working with our neighboring states, to sponsorship, to traveling and training across all of Tennessee and the southeast, it takes a lot of people and support to make it all come together,” Robinson says. “Special thanks to all those who have contributed, sponsored, supported, participated in classes, and, most importantly, to the instructors who volunteer their time. Seeing the results achieve positive and safe outcomes means the program is working.”

Through more than $217,000 in donations, mostly from local county sponsors, 483 turtle tubes and 19 Great Wall tubes have been purchased for county rescue personnel. The Tennessee Corn and Soybean Boards, which are comprised of farmers, donated money to purchase an enclosed trailer used in the training.

The next safety and rescue training is scheduled for February 24 from 8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. at the UT West Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center. Agricultural producers and emergency response personnel can register by contacting Joetta White at

The University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture is comprised of the Herbert College of Agriculture, UT College of Veterinary Medicine, UT AgResearch and UT Extension. Through its land-grant mission of teaching, research and outreach, the Institute touches lives and provides Real. Life. Solutions. to Tennesseans and beyond.

Media Contact

Joetta White

Tennessee AgrAbility