It's important that you create a disaster plan for your farm and make sure all family members know how to follow it.
Beginning your farm disaster plan can be overwhelming with so many different things to consider. Use this guide as a baseline to make sure all the important points in your evacuation plan are covered should disaster strike.
1. Learn about and evaluate what types of disasters could occur in your area.
Consider the following types of natural and man-made events when doing your evaluation: floods, hurricanes, thunderstorms (including tornadoes), extreme winter events, earthquakes, mudslides, wildfires, hazardous materials accidents or terrorist incidents. Your local fire department, or county emergency services personnel can help you consider the possibilities that you may not think of on your own. For example, the fire department may know about hazardous chemicals that are transported by truck or train through your community.
2. Plan how your household would stay in contact if you were separated.
Identify two meeting places: the first should be near your home—in case of fire, perhaps a tree or a telephone pole; the second should be away from your neighborhood in case you cannot return home. Also, identify an out-of-town contact who all family members know; this person can make sure the family’s communication is coordinated. All family members should know who the out-of-town contact is, so if family members are separated during an emergency, they can all get in touch through this designated person.
3. Draw a floor plan of your home.
Mark two escape routes from each room. Likewise, if you have a barn that animals are regularly kept in, plan escape routes.
4. Post emergency telephone numbers by telephones.
Include numbers for veterinarians and livestock handlers. Teach children how and when to call 911. If you live off main highways, post written directions to your home along with the emergency numbers, so you can clearly tell emergency dispatchers how to find your home; "turn left after the first cattle guard, then drive three miles, then turn right after the green barn,” is not something you want to have to think about while the barn is burning.
5. Make sure everyone in your household knows how and when to shut off water, gas and electricity at the main switches.
If you have to evacuate, fill the bathtub, sinks and other containers with water before you turn off the water, so that when you return, there is water immediately available for cleaning and other uses, even if the water and power are off. Consult with your local utilities if you have questions.
6. Reduce the economic impact of disaster on your property and your household’s health and financial well-being.
Review property insurance policies before disaster strikes—make sure policies are current and be certain they meet your needs (type of coverage, amount of coverage, and hazard covered—flood, earthquake, and so forth). Floods aren’t covered under normal homeowner policies unless you have a flood policy. Also, review life and health insurance policies and consider saving money in an "emergency” savings account that could be used in any crisis.
7. Consider others.
Do you have neighbors that will likely need help? Can your community use assistance in developing the capacity to meet an emergency?
8. Consider your animals.
Where will you evacuate them to if you need to leave? If you aren’t evacuated, but are facing an extended power outage, how much water will they need, and how will you supply it? A gasoline-powered generator can provide electricity during an extended power outage, both for watering your animals and for supplying electricity to your home.
This article was excerpted from "Why Have a Farm Disaster Plan?” which first appeared in the June/July 2003 issue of Hobby Farms magazine.