Six Steps to On-Farm Emergency Preparedness
No one ever wants a disaster to hit, but preparedness is key to overcoming any crisis. You are never really prepared for a flood, fire, explosion, storm damage, or even a pandemic health issue, but having a plan and organizing your resources beforehand, should help to lessen the negative impact and protect your farming operation.
Step 1. Create a Physical Plan
Planning ahead for an emergency can be intimidating and time consuming, but will be well worth it should an emergency take place. Hypothetically, if something happened to the decision maker on your farm, would they be able to continue operating? Would the person who is stepping in have all the necessary resources to be a successful replacement?
This is where training and clear directions will be crucial for an unplanned transition. Evaluate your day to day operations and create a plan that provides step by step instruction on what needs to be done and answers specific questions that a successor might have. Make sure to keep it somewhere that is easily accessible to the family or staff on the farm.
How to Create an On-Farm Emergency Plan
To get you started, here are important details your emergency farm plan should include:
- A communication plan – Include current employee and customer lists or how to find those lists. In the event that an emergency happens, it is helpful to have contact information on hand to let people know quickly what changes are taking place and what they can expect. Are you able to send an email to those who need to be communicated to? Do you have social media accounts? Think about all of the ways you communicate with your audiences now, and consider the best avenues to do so should an emergency situation occur.
- How to keep the farm running business as usual – This would be a great starting point to describe your daily routine, any critical functions that have to happen daily, and who you can communicate with about certain tasks
- Emergency Contact list – If there’s an issue with something, who needs to be notified or who can provide guidance?
- What to do in case of (insert emergency here) – Use the space to outline any safety equipment you have on the farm, directions on how to use, and where they can be found. It may also be helpful to include key points of access for the property for water, electricity, gas, etc.
- Identify resources that should be evaluated regularly for inventory levels – How many months of ____ should you keep on hand? Mention any specifics about turnaround times or other factors that need to be considered when ordering more.
During uncertain times, monitor current risks and be prepared to create new processes or resources to include in your emergency preparedness plan. As farmers, you plan each year for a new growing season and planning for emergency preparedness should also be priority.
Step 2. Organize Your Contacts
We mentioned this in step 1, but knowing who to contact for help is critical for your farm operation to be prepared to react to an emergency. Do you currently have a list of emergency contacts in your farm office or on your refrigerator in your kitchen? Updating your emergency contact information will help prepare you for easy access to reference and direction to reach out for help.
We’ve created a blank emergency contact form that you can use to fill out and check this step off your list - Click here to download a blank farm emergency contact form. This will help provide your farm operation with clear direction on where to turn for help and who to contact. Once you’ve filled it out completely, include the date so you know how old the list is later, make a few copies and keep them around your operation.
Step 3. Communicate the plan with your team
Creating a plan like this will require a transparent conversation with your staff and family. Make sure to walk through the plan with them and give them the opportunity to ask questions – you can use those to add to your plan to make it even more helpful. Updating this plan yearly and providing regular training on these items will help your team be prepared for just about anything.
Other ways to “communicate” certain parts of the plan include making copies of the plan available in different places on the farm and creating easy to read signage that helps people locate emergency equipment and other important buildings or access points on the farm. Also, prioritize communicating regularly with your employees to ensure the well-being of both the employees and the farm.
Step 4. Identify your Risks
Identifying your farm risks and gathering information about what disasters or hazards are most likely to happen on your farm is an important conversation to discuss with your insurance providers.
Protecting your farm with a tailored policy and understanding what types of losses are covered in your policy can help you to better manage your farm risk. Challenge yourself to think about your health, farm, crop, and liability protection for your farm. One best management practice to set up an annual check-in with your insurance provider to review your coverage. Keep a copy of your policies with your emergency plan.
Step 5. Know and Gather Your Resources
Knowing your on-farm inventory of supplies and inputs is really important to help manage your day to day operations. What can you do to prepare for input shortages? Take the time to observe your overall farm inventory and start by planning ahead. Don’t wait until something is needed, be proactive and try to keep an inventory of resources onsite.
But what about intangible resources? Creating and establishing valuable relationships with agricultural professionals and service providers can also serve as an additional resource contact for your farming operation. Don’t overlook the opportunity to reach to your key contacts if/when an emergency happens to ask for help or technical support. Many of our fellow agribusiness providers want to serve and support you as the customer, no matter what the circumstance. If you need a starting point, seek out folks to build your relationships with at your local extension office, local commodity groups and your community so you can take care of each other in challenging times.
Step 6. Take ongoing measures to Protect Your Farm
Protecting your farm is one of your top priorities. Creating operating procedures and best management practices is important to build a network of support to overcome an emergency. Each farm will have its own unique needs and operating procedures. Implementing onsite practices like sanitizing, keeping an up to date customer list, identifying an on-farm drop off location, following onsite biosecurity protocol, and logging all deliveries and on-farm entries can help you be more prepared for an emergency.
As you develop your plans and procedures, keep them all together so you can re-evaluate them on a yearly basis. Most of your emergency preparedness plan may stay the same from year to year, but making regular updates and monitoring what you currently have will keep you and your farm prepared for just about anything.
If an emergency does hit, do your best and don’t forget to ask for help if you need it. After the storm passes, go back to your plan and add anything that you may have learned.
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