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Storm Preparedness — Spring 2009 | Out Here Magazine

Make a plan to minimize destruction on your farm

By Becky Mills
Photos courtesy of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

Mother Nature can be formidable when spring storms bring tornadoes, wildfires, flooding, and other natural disasters, but getting your farm prepared can prevent, or at least minimize, damage.

Take the time to establish a plan that will succeed for your farm in case of emergency.

First, take a thorough inventory of livestock, property, and potentially hazardous substances, such as pesticides and fertilizers, says Don Renchie, an extension specialist with Texas A&M University.

Attach animal identification tags on all large livestock and record the ID number and animal description to easily identify those that may be killed, lost, or stolen. "This can aid rescuers in identifying livestock and also settle, without argument, the livestock belong to you," Renchie says.

Establish escape routes for livestock in case of flooding. If water starts to rise, what's the best place for them to go? Then, map out alternate routes in case the planned route becomes inaccessible. Additionally, devise an evacuation and relocation plan in case your animals must be kept at another location in the event that your barns or fences are damaged and need rebuilding, Renchie advises. Decide how and where you'll relocate them and how you'll provide food and water at their temporary shelter.

Plan for how and where you would move hay, machinery, fuels, and other chemicals out of flood-prone areas. Flooding could cause these chemicals to wash into streams or contaminate food supplies, endangering people and animals.

Start by storing fuel tanks and other combustibles such as oil and transmission fluid well away from your hay and feed storage, Renchie advises.

"Also, put it in an area where you can dike spills," says Renchie, adding that easily containing spills will cut down on the likelihood of fires and contamination of feed.

Additionally, know how to turn off electrical power to machines, barns, and other structures on your property. Fit pumps with an alternative power source, such as solar or a gas-powered generator, so they'll operate if power goes off, Renchie says.

Texas A&M's Extension Service also suggests that, in addition to family disaster kits that every household should have, these supplies be kept on hand to protect the farm:

  • Sandbags and plastic sheeting, in case of flood
  • Wire and rope to secure objects
  • Lumber and plywood to protect windows
  • Extra fuel for tractors and vehicles in a safe location
  • Hand tools to assist in preparation and recovery
  • Fire extinguishers in all barns and in all vehicles
  • A safe supply of food to feed livestock
  • A gas-powered generator in case of power failure

Becky Mills, a Georgia writer, specializes in agricultural stories.