DECATUR - Robert Billman wanted to see what it was like Friday to become entrapped in a full grain bin.

So Billman, who works for Premier Cooperative in Champaign, volunteered to be one of the victims to be rescued during a Grain Bin Rescue Training Course held at Progress City USA.

Billman said the grain came up to his stomach, yet he couldn't move at all.

"I can only imagine it going up to my chest," Billman said. "It's a controlled situation, so it's not as scary as it would be."

One of Billman's rescuers, Jim Bode, said it was hard work to pull the victim to safety from atop the pile of grain. The rescuers came down from high inside the FBI building dripping with sweat.

"At the elevator, the grain is going to be in something bigger and moving a lot faster," said Bode, superintendent of East Lincoln Farmers Grain Co. in Lincoln. "Now maybe I'd be able to save somebody someday."

The training was designed for workers at grain elevators, who would be the first on the scene to assist a co-worker if an accident happens. Fire departments also would be called to help depending on the situation, but having the right equipment and personnel properly trained can make the difference, said Mark Avery, editor of the Decatur-based Grain Journal publication, one of the sponsors for the event.

About 50 people took part in one of two, four-hour sessions. The course was co-sponsored by the Grain Elevator and Processing Society Cornbelt Chapter, Grain & Feed Association of Illinois and GSI Group.

It's good to be prepared, said Eric Clements, operations superintendent for Topflight Grain Co-Operative in Bement.

"Hopefully we never have to rescue anyone," Clements said. "If we need to, we can work with fire departments and maybe help out another company."

It's a facility's responsibility to keep employees safe and have a rescue plan, equipment and training, said Bill Harp, who conducted the training. Harp is CEO for the Michigan-based Safety and Technical Rescue Association and a Detroit firefighter.

It's also important to keep rescuers safe, Harp said. He showed the participants how to properly tie knots in rope, secure harnesses and look for safe structures to provide anchors.

"We don't want a would-be rescuer to also become a victim," Harp said. "Nothing is more valuable than employees."

Harp said it is usually best to have three rescuers pulling a victim out. Because of the training that takes place, Harp said more rescues are being made than fatalities compared to the number of incidents that occur.|421-7972

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