Rescue-TubeA fire and rescue operation in rural northeast Iowa is turning to the internet in hopes of finding donors who will put up the money for a vital piece of life-saving equipment.

Key West Fire and EMS Chief Brian Arnold says his Dubuque County department needs what’s called a rescue tube for use in grain bin emergencies.

“The tube acts like a cofferdam,” Chief Arnold says. “You put it down around the person entrapped in the grain and it clamps together and holds the grain away from the patient and you slide the auger down in beside the patient and remove the grain from inside the tube.”

The department has launched a fundraiser on the website,, and is now seeking donations. “The whole project between the tube, the auger, safety lines for the rescuers, rescue ropes and things like that is about $5,000 total,” Arnold says.

A private donor has agreed to put up $2,000, so the Give Forward page is asking for the other $3,000 in donations. So far, just a few hundred dollars is pledged. Being in a community that has a large number of grain storage structures, Arnold says the likelihood of a grain engulfment emergency is high.

“This would be a great asset if we needed it so that we don’t have to wait for it from another department or somewhere out,” Arnold says. “The closest one that we have in our area is about 20 minutes away or so. It takes about 60 seconds to engulf somebody in grain and they can suffocate rather quickly if you don’t get them out of there.”

Suffocation can occur when a worker becomes buried by grain as they walk on moving grain or attempt to clear grain built up on the inside of a bin. Moving grain acts like quicksand and can rapidly bury a worker. In 2010, a total of 51 workers nationwide were engulfed by grain stored in bins — and 26 of them died.