Although big disasters get a lot of attention, the most common disaster for farmers is barn fires. You can take steps to reduce the chances of a barn fire and to improve the likelihood that your animals will survive in the event of a fire.
Barns are usually full of highly flammable materials, like hay chaff. A stray hot ash, an electrical short or a hot engine can set off a conflagration in no time at all. Absolutely forbid smoking in and around the barn—and enforce this with guests as well as family members or employees. Use these tips to reduce your risk of a barn fire:
- Be extremely conscious when using electrical appliances or heavy equipment around the barn, and don’t leave the appliances on unattended.
- Inspect electrical wiring annually.
- Don’t store hay that is damp in a barn or haymow. Hay that is put up damp can spontaneously combust!
- Keep fire extinguishers near every barn-entry point, and make sure they are up-to-date and large enough to be effective.
- If you regularly keep livestock stalled in the barn, consider the possibility of installing sprinklers. And invest in a good heat-and-smoke sensor with an alarm mounted outside the barn and in the house. The new sensors will pick up any sudden increase in building temperature, even if there isn’t active smoke yet.
- Construct a fenced area far enough away to safely keep the animals, but close enough so that you can quickly get animals to it if you are evacuating them from a barn.
- In case a fire has started, use extreme caution when entering the barn. It’s a hard call to make, but consider if it is safe enough to enter the barn to rescue the animals. If you think you can enter safely, evacuate the animals that are easiest to reach first.
This article was excerpted from "Why Have a Farm Disaster Plan?” which first appeared in the June/July 2003 issue of Hobby Farms magazine.