It's tornado season in Iowa and in many parts of the country. But spring brings a host of other potential challenges for farmers and ranchers, including storms, floods, higher volumes of chemicals on hand and other types of hazards are common this time of year.
"Our company is passionate about emergency preparedness," says Gary Douglas, president of Nationwide Agribusiness Insurance in Des Moines, Iowa. "Why? Because every day, we help customers deal with accidents, crises and disasters. We see first-hand the effects of these incidents on farm owners, their families, employees, customers, bottom lines and often on their futures."
Does your farm have an emergency action plan?
"Over 100 years in the business, we have learned that most accidents are preventable; that when disasters happen, damage can be minimized in many cases; and that advanced preparation is not just smart, but directly affects a farm's or ranch's profitability and long-term growth," says Douglas.
His firm recommends you prepare for tornadoes, hurricanes, floods or other natural disasters by having an active, up-to-date Emergency Action Plan. "In an emergency, it can provide a clear path through the chaos as well as save precious time when minutes count," notes Douglas.
Here are some tips for what to include in your farm's or ranch's emergency action plan. The best idea of all: keep it simple!
Nine basic elements of an emergency action plan
- Document emergency escape routes and procedures for each building on your property.
- Identify procedures to be followed by the people who remain to handle critical operations before they evacuate.
- Document procedures to account for all people and employees after an emergency evacuation.
- List who will be responsible for what and how they will report fire and other emergencies.
- Develop and maintain a list of all people connected with your farm or ranch who should be contacted in an emergency, listing names and all pertinent contact information such as owners, family members, employees, employee family members, suppliers and anyone else who is on your farm or ranch on a regular basis.
- Develop and maintain a list of emergency contacts such as local law enforcement, fire departments, emergency medical responders, gas and electric providers, hospitals, insurance companies.
- Include a map of your farm or ranch with all buildings (and contents) designated.
- Have contingency plans for where you'll house livestock if barns or dairy parlors are damaged or destroyed.
- Designate a location for offsite storage of important documents and records.
Also consider these helpful recommendations…
Keep both your farm and emergency contact lists in several locations – in your home, your office, your glove compartment, with all family members, any key employees, and in additional buildings as appropriate. The key is to always have them close at hand.
Establish an inventory system (know exactly what's on your farm at all times).
Preplan salvage operations and include a method of debris disposal. Be aware of what materials the landfill nearest your farm or ranch will accept and establish alternatives if needed. Follow any specific procedures for disposal of chemicals or other hazardous materials to meet EPA requirements.
Douglas concludes, "As farmers know too well: Mother Nature is unpredictable. But being prepared with an emergency action plan is a great investment in helping preserve what farmers and ranchers have worked so hard to build."