Each year, farmers risk their lives by entering large grain bins to remove clumped or rotting grain while machinery is still running. Much like quicksand, flowing grain can bury a worker within seconds.

Because these accidents have become all too common, Nationwide is launching its fifth annual Nominate Your Fire Department Contest in honor of Grain Bin Safety Week. The goal is to prevent injuries by promoting safe bin-entry procedures, such as maintaining quality grain, testing bin atmosphere for toxic gases and wearing proper safety equipment.

This year, Grain Bin Safety Week runs from Feb. 18 – 24 and has been officially recognized by governors of the following states: IowaMichiganMinnesotaWest VirginiaNorth Dakota and South Dakota. Nominations for the Nominate Your Fire Department Contest are open until April 30.

Since 2014, Nationwide has awarded grain bin rescue tubes and training to 48 fire departments in 18 states. The Westphalia Fire Department in Kansas and the Glenville Fire Department in Minnesota have both put their tubes and training to action — saving the lives of farmers trapped in grain bins.

“It felt like an eternity,” said Glenville Fire Chief Matt Webb, who rescued a man last year that had fallen into a bin of rotting corn. “But the grain rescue training came back quickly, and it was a relief we had our own equipment. The program that’s out there for these tubes and training is such a life-saving resource in our county.”

There were 60 confirmed grain bin entrapments and incidents in other confined spaces on U.S. farms in 2016, according to Purdue University. That’s a 27 percent increase from 2015, and Purdue estimates that an additional 30 percent of cases go unreported each year.

To help prevent further deaths and injuries, Nationwide collaborates each year with the National Education Center for Agricultural Safety (NECAS) to provide safety training. The director of NECAS travels to training locations with a state-of-the-art grain entrapment simulator and rescue tube. The comprehensive training sessions include classroom education and a rescue simulation with the entrapment tool, which is loaded onto a 20-foot trailer and able to hold about 100 bushels of grain.

“Nationwide created this program and joined forces with partners across the country to make it happen for a single purpose — to save lives,” said Brad Liggett, president of Nationwide Agribusiness, the No. 1 farm insurer1. “We understand the importance of the work that farmers are doing every day, and we will continue to make the rescue tubes and training available as long as these dangers exist.”

Grain Bin Safety Week and the Nominate Your Fire Department Contents are supported by Nationwide and the following partners:

“Grain Bin Safety Week would not happen without the generous support of our sponsors,” Liggett added. “We would like to thank every sponsor for making this week and contest a reality.”