Emergency responders in Cedar County and one of the state’s major agriculture firms, Corteva Agriscience an agricultural division of DowDupont, worked together to practice in case a crop duster ever sprays chemicals onto their field workers.
Emergency responders radio out the call, "10-4 we have approximately 35 kids out working in the field detasseling, a plane flew overheard and sprayed them with chemicals."
Detasselers sprayed by an unknown chemical, that’s the situation these crews were preparing for, as July is the peak season for crop dusting. Corteva Agriscience’s production manager for their Durant plant Juan Acuna, said they normally have 75 to 100 high schooler’s who detassel for them each season and that their safety is important. "We wanted to test what we would do as Corteva Agrisciences, Pioneer and what Tim would do as EMS if such an incident would happen," said Acuna.
Emergency responders arrived on scene and quickly began setting up a decontamination tent. The emergency management coordinator for Cedar County Tim Mallott, says time is of the essence in a situation like this, "It is very important you don’t want people or young kids to have chemicals on them."
The detasslers practiced being sprayed down and changing clothes, then they were divided up into groups, depending on their condition.
A nurse with the DowDupont plant made the situation feel even more real as she was quickly dividing up the high schoolers based on ‘fake’ symptoms. "Who’s having a hard time breathing here, ok you go to group number 1, we’ve got to make sure you’re ok. No irritation of the eyes, skin?".
Next, EMS loaded up the kids to be taken to the hospital, where in the case of a real event they would be evaluated for further medical treatment. Once the drill was completed, the team gathered to review what could be improved upon.
Although something like this isn’t common Malott says it’s still important to practice, "We’ll be able to do this better faster and learn every time we do this and improve on our system."
The DowDupont’s Durant Plant tells us there are steps in place to avoid this sort of event. Acuna says they are in close communications with local co-ops to make sure they know what fields the detasslers are working in. However, they still want to be prepared in case of an emergency.
A couple of the emergency services that responded to this event are volunteer based, who always need more hands on deck. If you are interested in becoming a volunteer emergency responder for Cedar County you can visit there website here.
Again, this event was only a drill.