Updated January 1, 1 . AmFam Team
Take a walk around your barns, sheds and storage tanks, and you’re likely to find steps that you’ve already taken to help prevent accidents. Things like emergency shut off valves, electrical disconnects and fire extinguishers all play a role in keeping your farm or ranch as safe as it can be.
Though you’ve taken important precautions to prevent small mistakes from turning into major emergencies, does your farm or ranch have an emergency plan of action in place if the need should arise?
An emergency action plan is an organized response to problems that could occur on your farm or ranch. Take a look at our guide to creating an emergency action plan that’ll help direct first responders, family members and employees to react more quickly and efficiently to emergencies that occur on your property.
If you’ve been in the business of farming or ranching for any length of time, odds are you’ve seen your share of close calls and maybe an accident or two. One important first step is to identify where and why problems have occurred in the past and look back at how your team handled the situation.
Learn from the past. Consider how previous problems were tackled. Were you all able to communicate clearly during the event? Did first responders have enough information and site-specific details to quickly contain the problem? Note down how and where emergencies occurred and review the issues that contributed to the problem.
Get the details. Write down a short description of any instances where first responders or other officials were brought on site to address a crisis. Identify the building where the problem occurred and record the facts as they happened over the course of the event. Also include details on how the emergency was resolved. Flag these locations when you make your map, and share this information with employees to prevent the mistake from happening again.
Improve your response. With time comes knowledge. Write down how you would handle the situation differently the next time around. Be as specific as possible. Let this new information help to guide you as your emergency management plan takes shape. Don’t forget to take the time to improve safety and reduce risk on your farm by reviewing these tips on understanding farming hazards and controls.
With insights on how to best respond to emergencies by looking at past events, it’s time to carefully think about the hotspots for trouble on your property.
Tour your acreage. Take a walk around your property and inventory all of the sites likely to pose a hazard. Write down the type of hazard, the building or site name and the kind of first responder that’ll be called into action to defend against the threat. The location of stored chemicals, pesticides, hazardous substances and combustible materials should be detailed. Consider situations like silo and bin entrapment, noxious fume exposure, and events that can effect livestock, like disease outbreaks and extreme weather events, as potential emergencies that will need a response plan. Explore other ways to help ensure that you’re keeping your farm safe.
Take inventory. Jot down details on all assets, from livestock and feed to tractors and combines. Identify medicines for the livestock and write down VINs and serial numbers for your machinery. Now you know what might happen and where, and you can create a customized plan to defend against each of these issues.
Creating a map that’s clearly labeled for emergency responders can increase their response time to issues and decrease damage to your property. Here’s a few things to keep in mind as you create your emergency map.
Plot it out. Get online and print out a satellite image or map of your property. Whichever you choose, be sure that your notes and markings are clearly visible on the map so that first responders will know exactly what they’re looking at.
Identify structures and hazards. Using the list of hazards you created, number all buildings and site locations. And take a look at the ways you can protect your farm’s outbuildings and cover your structures from various types of damage.
Create a map key. On a separate piece of paper, make a key for your map. The key should contain the type of hazard, details about how to combat it and the first responder type.
Label streets, roads and egress routes. Name access routes, gates, entry and exit locations and utility cutoff locations on all buildings. Include site evacuation zones as well.
Crops and water. Identify the types of crops growing on your land, and water sources too.
Easy access to information is key when you and your employees need to respond quickly to an unfolding event or emergency. Identifying who’s responsible to manage each emergency type can help your plan run more smoothly if something does happen.
Leverage social media. A good strategy is to create an emergency response group on a social media platform that all parties — employees, family members and first responders — have access to. This can act as a message board in the event of an emergency. Once your emergency response plan is created, you can also share the document there. The benefit in doing so is that you can amend and update the plan as circumstances change locally. Remember to include specialists that may need to be called into action, like veterinarians and chemical spill professionals.
Define roles and responsibilities. Assign employees a job to do for each emergency scenario you’ve identified above. Review these plans often and take time at meetings to go over who’s a participant in each scenario.
Now you know what might happen and where, and you can create a customized plan to defend against each of these issues. Distributing your map can help aid authorities to identify the best access routes and storage sites for volatile materials. Be sure to update the map every time storage locations change and remember to share a picture of the map on your group social media page.
Contact local authorities. Invite fire chiefs and first responders to your farm so they can review your plans. They’re a great resource for fine-tuning this first draft and can offer insight into how other emergencies were handled and what worked best during previous efforts. Use that map to identify how first responders will access your property and get to the location of the emergency. Don’t be afraid to ask them how they would change your plan to make it safer and more efficient.
Relocate hazardous and explosive materials. Assess the location of where you store volatile items. Consider how close these items are to livestock and living or working spaces for family and employees. It may be necessary to move dangerous or explosive materials to reduce the threat these items pose. On the map, assign storage areas that are less likely to ignite or impact nearby structures in the event of a chemical emergency.
Having a plan to get employees and livestock out of harm’s way should be a central part of building your plan. Consider that you may need different strategies based on the type of emergency.
Livestock evacuation and handlers. Now that you’ve settled on who’ll be doing what, be sure that your farmworkers responsible for moving animals are well versed in how to manage each type of animal on your farm. When making your selection, remember that the handler will have to know how to manage an evacuation with stressed animals, possibly in harsh weather.
Evacuation plans. Getting away safely depends on the situation. Livestock may have to be evacuated to different locations depending on the type of emergency. If toxic chemicals threaten the animals or humans, getting out of harm’s way may mean having to move upwind and away from an otherwise designated evacuation zone. Weather related events can also require different plans, too. Consider the differences in managing an evacuation due to a hail storm versus that of a wildfire.
Sheltering in place. Sometimes, the safest place to be during an emergency is right where you are. This is often the case when foul winter weather bears down quickly. Be sure to have a plan for loss of utilities and keep supplies stowed away with provisions and other necessities in those spaces where you will be taking shelter.
Regrouping after evacuation. Designate a spot where employees and others are required to meet during certain situations. This part of the plan is important when access to a cell signal is lost and further instructions will need to be handled verbally. Remember to build a plan to manage visitors on your farm during emergencies. Learn about how to protect your guests from injury by reviewing our article on keeping visitors safe on the farm.
Because you planned ahead, you and your staff can better work together, and remain confident and calm if the unexpected happens. Hopefully your emergency action plan gives you peace of mind since you’ve taken some of the stress out of a future emergency.
Another key way in which you can protect your farm or ranch is to request an American Family Insurance agent (Opens in a new tab) to put you in touch with our loss and risk control resource center specialists. You’ll benefit from our expert agent’s knowledge on how to customize a policy to meet your exact needs. You’re going to find that your investments and everything else that means so much to you will be well protected and ready for anything.