Emergency Preparedness for Farms and Ranches


Ag Biz News Column
Chad Gulley
County Extension Agent—Ag/NR
Smith County


Emergency Preparation for Farmers and Ranchers

Disasters come in many forms.  Disasters can be caused from hurricanes, tornadoes, flooding, accidents, terrorism, ice storms, and wildfires to name a few.   Texas is home to more than 247,000 farms and ranches where agriculture contributes to more than $100 million annually to the state’s economy.   Are you prepared for a disaster on your farm?

All disaster plans on the farm or ranch should address three major types of potential loss.  First is the safety of family, coworkers, first responders, rescue workers, emergency personnel, pets and livestock.  Second is the protection of crops, equipment, machinery, chemicals, water sources, feed sources, and other bulk materials stored on the farm.  Third are personal finances, insurance, and other economic losses that may result from loss of life, property, and temporary loss of income.

Farmers and ranchers can do several things to prepare for an unexpected disaster.  Consider steps before, during and after a disaster.  Farmers and ranchers can keep a good inventory of their property, equipment, and livestock in case of a disaster.  Permanent identification of livestock is another key component.  Photographs of equipment and livestock may aid in the recovery process.  What if all the fences are torn down by a natural disaster?  How will you know what livestock are yours and what belongs to your neighbors?

Do not wait until a disaster strikes before developing a plan.  Contact your local veterinarian to have supplies on hand so treatment of livestock can be initiated on a timely basis.  Minor cuts and abrasions may be treated by the farm manager while major cuts and abrasions may need a veterinarian’s assistance.    Like people, animals can experience significant stress during a disaster.

Protect supplies of feed and hay supplies before a disaster by moving them to higher ground or other areas on the farm.  In low lying areas, it may require livestock to be moved to higher ground as well to prevent losses from flooding.  Near barns and other structures, damage can result from flying debris such as tin, loose tools, boards, and more.  Secure any loose tools or items that may become flying projectiles in strong wind storms.

After the disaster has passed and it is safe to enter the area, take an inventory of the livestock, equipment, etc. to assess the damage and make a plan for recovery.  Be careful around downed power lines and debris that may be present from the disaster.  If you suspect a contaminant could be in the water supply, prepare to have it tested to make sure it is safe for your livestock as well.  Avoid crossing high waterways as roads or other materials may have washed away in a flood event.  Use caution when operating heavy equipment or power tools to remove debris after the disaster.

It may be necessary to shut off all electrical power and other utilities on the farm as the disaster occurs.  After a disaster, it may be necessary to check with the local electrical company to make sure it is safe to turn the power back on.  If you suspect gas leaks, contact the local gas company for assistance.

Maps and sketches of the farm layout may be necessary in the recovery process for emergency personnel and first responders.  Today there are numerous links and smart phone apps that may be helpful in the emergency preparedness process.  Protect your operation before, during and after a disaster.

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