It’s Time to Talk

January 28, 2014 06:46 PM
It’s Time to Talk

Share your emergency management plan

Emergency preparedness isn’t about if a disaster will occur; it’s about being prepared for when it does. Still, it’s not a topic that’s regularly discussed.

"There are so many places you can get hurt or killed on a farm," says Brian Forrest, partner, Maple Ridge Dairy Business LLC in Stratford, Wis. "It’s almost overwhelming."

Creating a plan is the first step in being prepared. For large operations, hiring a professional to perform a safety audit and construct a disaster preparedness plan might be best.

Forrest followed this route. Marshfield Farm Medicine Center extensively assessed the farm and provided safety training for employees.

For smaller farms or those looking to get started, resources are available to help guide the process. Farmers can also take steps toward safety by making a list of potential hazards on their operations and the necessary steps to deal with those areas.

Being prepared doesn’t end with a single meeting or a checklist of best practices. Safety should be at the forefront of every operation, every day. It must be discussed regularly.

"Safety is our culture here, but moving forward with the plan is the hardest part," Forrest explains.

Maple Ridge Dairy has monthly employee meetings, and the first topic on the agenda is always safety. "The first things we talk about are safety issues and if anyone has had any close calls or any new tasks that were found to be dangerous," he explains. "We try to take the time to work through those issues."

Additionally, all new employees must complete safety education as part of their training process.

Jim Ochterski, a Cornell Extension educator in Ontario County, helped create the Farm Disaster Preparation Certificate program, which teaches farmers about emergency planning. Those who complete the certificate program receive a discounted insurance premium. It also gets farmers talking about disaster planning.

One important step in creating better disaster preparedness plans is increasing awareness. Talking about the dangers of farming sheds light on an often-shadowed issue.

The class also serves as an open environment where farmers can learn from others’ experiences. "It’s rare if someone hasn’t had an instance on their farm," he explains. "When farmers hear from their peers about what could happen, and what has happened, it forms a very clear picture of the need to be prepared."

Take Action. It’s too easy to say, "I’ll be careful" and not easy enough to say exactly what steps need to be taken to prevent a disaster.

Forrest agrees that discussions make an impact, especially when communicating with employees who can be tempted to underestimate the severity of everyday dangers. "Stories about what has happened to others resonate that those disasters could occur here, too," he says.

Forrest recommends scheduling regular safety checkups and employee meetings to review and analyze worst-case scenario action plans. Drills and hands-on training can also be effective. There’s no point in creating a disaster plan if employees don’t know how to follow it, he says. 

For more information about preparing for and preventing disasters on your farm, visit

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