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Creating farm emergency action plans

Quick facts

  • Communication is key to preparing any type of emergency action plan for your farm.
  • Create maps and lists of access routes, buildings, inventories and other important locations.
  • A full emergency contact list should be available to everyone on the farm. 
  • Work with your insurance provider to review plans and determine what emergency supplies you may need.
  • Compose action plans for several possible farm emergencies and go over them with employees and family.

Life on the farm, just like the weather, can be unpredictable, so it’s important to plan for even the most unexpected circumstances. Creating an emergency action plan for your farm could save lives if the unexpected does happen.

Take the time to get together with everyone who works on your farm, and start planning. Creating an emergency plan doesn’t have to be complicated. Gathering just a few key pieces of information can help you create a quick and simple plan. 

The most important step in creating any type of emergency action plan is communication. Everyone on your farm: family members, employees, etc., should be involved in the planning process. Also contact your local emergency services like the sheriff, fire department and ambulance service to help you think through what they would need in any of these situations to make sure you are properly prepared.

What plans do you need?

In Minnesota, farmers should consider having emergency plans in place for tornadoes, floods, severe snowstorms and fires. Also, know what alert plans are in place for your community, and figure out the best way to alert one another in order to set your plan into action. 

Create a map of the farm

A complete map should include all buildings and structures as well as access routes to your farmstead and land. Access routes include:

  • Roads
  • Lanes
  • Driveways

Also include:

  • All fences and gates
  • Locations of all livestock
  • Locations of all hazardous substances
  • Locations of shut-offs for electricity, water and other utilities

Although you may know where everything is, it helps to have it all written down in case someone else needs this information. Having everything mapped out allows you to see the opportunities and challenges when making your plan.

Make lists of farm inventory

You will want lists for a few different things. One of those is a full list of your farm inventory. Include all livestock on the farm, listing species and number of each species. Also include crop types, number of acres and whatever crops you have stored on the farm.

All machinery and equipment, including serial numbers, should be on the list. Your inventory should also include hazardous substances such as fuel, fertilizer and medicines. 

Create an emergency contact list

  • Include phone numbers for your vet, county emergency management, Extension office and your insurance agent.
  • List all of the businesses that supply services to or for your farm.
  • Include your milk processor, feed and fuel delivery and anyone else who is on the farm regularly and should be alerted after something happens on the farm.

These livestock emergency planning documents can help with this step.

Review current insurance coverage and emergency supplies

  • Contact your insurance agent and review your coverage for emergency and disaster situations.
  • Check what you have for supplies you may need in an emergency, such as tools, fire extinguishers and generators.
  • Determine what areas you can use in an emergency for livestock and equipment relocation.
  • This is also a time to review buildings for any structural compromises or loose materials. Repairing weak areas or cleaning up unused materials laying around could help keep animals and people safe during adverse weather conditions. 

Create action plans

You will most likely have two scenarios to review: one for sheltering in place, and another for evacuation.

If you are going to be sheltering in place, plan for what to do if resources are cut off. Do you have backup power? Backup fuel? What will you do if an access route gets blocked? Determine what actions will need to be taken and who will need to be contacted if this happens. 

Evacuation plans

  • When creating an evacuation plan, look at the map you created. What is the best escape for animals? Which gates need to be opened? What happens if an identified route is blocked? Also consider where your hazardous materials are stored.
  • If you are dealing with a fire, anything that is potentially explosive should be stored as far away from animals as possible. If you are able to gain access to these materials before they are reached, where should you move them to?
  • Make a plan for your people. Where is a safe place to take shelter? Where should they evacuate to? Make sure these are made clear to everyone working on the farm so that everyone stays safe. 

Medical emergencies

This could include heart attacks, allergic reactions, or injuries from equipment or livestock.

  • For heart attacks, allergic reactions and other known medical conditions, make sure everyone on your farm is aware of who has existing health conditions and their warning signs. Having this knowledge could save precious time if something were to happen.
  • For injuries, some training may be a good idea. Taking a First Aid class will help everyone feel prepared to offer immediate care before EMTs can arrive.
  • Compile and post an emergency contact list.

Toxic gas and entrapment emergencies

Another emergency event you should plan for is a confined space emergency. These divide into two major categories: toxic gas and entrapment.

  • Monitor gas levels around manure storage areas and only enter them if you have the proper equipment and training.
  • If someone does enter and becomes trapped or overcome by the gas, never send someone in after them or go in yourself.
  • Contact your local rescue team, simply call 911, tell them the situation and wait for help.

Grain bin entrapment

For grain bin entrapment situations, the emergency action plan should be similar to toxic gas emergencies. Attempting to rescue someone could result in the rescuer becoming trapped as well, as flowing grain moves quickly.

  • Proper equipment, like harnesses, should always be used when entering a grain bin.
  • If someone becomes trapped, contact 911 and wait for the rescue squad to arrive.

Author: Emily Krekelberg, Extension farm safety and health educator

Reviewed in 2021

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