By Liz Foster
Sarah Young Teskey, former Yavapai County Farm Bureau President and now a Rager Emergency Services volunteer in Oregon, remembers all too well the importance of first-aid training when an accident happens in a remote area of a farm or ranch. Arizona Farm Bureau members until they moved out-of-state, Sarah and her family moved to a ranch that was more than 60 miles from the nearest medical facility. Her father was injured shortly after they arrived. The most agonizing part was discovering how long it took for the emergency medical team from the nearest town to reach them. From that experience, Sarah knew she wanted training to be able to coordinate helicopters and paramedics to the right places to help other families in remote areas to avoid experiencing what happened to them. She and other farmers and ranchers have been advocating for this type of training.
Now trained, Sarah has discovered that neighbors will call with non-emergency questions and find comfort in getting advice. “As part of the community, I want my neighbors to know that we are ready and willing to help,” she explains.
Most rural volunteer departments have little experience or exposure to agriculture. To volunteer with a department, one must pass a physical followed by a vote of peers to join and a six-month probation period. The typical rural volunteer responding to accidents constantly trains to stay sharp and ready. They usually train 200 to 250 hours a year on anything from CPR/AED/First Aid certification to confined-space rescue and even agricultural training. Depending on the certification, volunteers may have to renew annually; sometimes it is two years before they need to recertify. Often the training is either hands-on or through watching a video or reading a book on first-aid and emergency rescue.
Rural emergency volunteers participate for various reasons. Most say it’s to give something back to the community because they grew up there or because they realized they love helping. For cotton farmer Jay Larson, Graham County Farm Bureau president and Thatcher firefighter, it was to serve in his community; the camaraderie that he has with his fellow volunteers ─ a few are also Farm Bureau board members ─ is a plus.
For Jodiee Fleck, also a Rager Emergency Services volunteer in Oregon, it was because she and her husband had moved their family out to the middle of nowhere and felt it was her responsibility to take care of them if an emergency happened. What she didn’t realize is that she would love it. “When an emergency arises, people are scared and hurt and when they can be helped by someone they know they can relax.”
Emergency Safety: Issues to Consider
Even if you have never had an accident on your farm or ranch, you may one day. First, it’s wise to visit with your local fire department. Invite them to come and tour your farm and talk about your equipment: what it is used for, how it works and show them how to shut it off or disengage the equipment.
According to Terry Tingle with Sunsites Fire Department in Cochise County, a 15- to 45-minute response time or more to your farm or ranch is not unusual. The better prepared you are and the more information you can share with the first responders the better the chance of survival. If you can tell them exactly what has happened and the current state of the victim, they’ll be better prepared including knowing how many people to bring and the equipment they are going to need. The firefighters need to know if they must lift something off, cut something away, or extricate someone from equipment.
“One of the biggest challenges in an accident ─ farm-related or not ─ is relaying the information about the location of the accident and the condition of the victim,” said Thatcher’s Jay Larson. According to the 911 operator they will need an address or location. Telling the operator you’re in a field past “old man Smith’s barn” isn’t going to be helpful. If you don’t have a physical address, have someone meet the EMTs on the highway or road and lead them in to the victim. Once the EMTs and the Fire Department have been dispatched, the call is then taken over by the ambulance service. If a medical helicopter or police is required, then the 911 dispatcher will be involved. A pre-determined area free of wire and other debris will be needed to reduce risk if a helicopter needs to land.
Those First Few Minutes Count
When an accident occurs on the farm or ranch, those first few minutes are the most critical. First, determine if the person is alive and call 911. Then, move into action with these additional critical next steps:
- Until the first responders can arrive, make the victim as comfortable as possible: pillow, jacket, blankets or a sun shade depending on the weather are helpful considerations.
- Control any bleeding by putting direct pressure at the location of the bleeding.
- Apply a tourniquet above the bleed for severe wounds if you know how to use one.
- If the victim is pinned, you may want to keep them under the equipment; this can help avoid shock. The EMTs will place an IV in the person so they can control fluids and prevent shock.
- Make the machinery safe but know what happens if the motor is shut off: does the equipment settle or lose hydraulic pressure that might injure the person further?
- If the victim has been stabbed or pierced by something and it has gone all the way through, immobilize the wound but don’t remove the object.
Carrying a basic first aid kit that has gauze, wraps and bandages in vehicles, ATVs and even in farm equipment can be beneficial in keeping you prepared for an accident. At the very least carry gloves to minimize exposure to blood. There should also be a way to communicate ˗ especially if you are by yourself and become the victim. Cell phones are standard today but in some areas there might not be reception so a radio may be useful. Most farmers and ranchers have things in their truck they can use in a pinch such as a tarp for sunshade or a jacket to keep the victim warm.
Besides the typical First Aid/CPR training, you should learn how to accurately evaluate an accident scene. Recognizing what is occurring and being able to relay information to the dispatcher is critical. Be familiar with the equipment and know how cutting, prying or turning it off will affect the victim. You should be familiar with giving directions to any part of your farm or ranch.
Finally, first aid and CPR training is offered through the American Red Cross, the American Heart Association or possibly by your local fire departments.