Developing a Farm Evacuation Plan

Photo by Debra Murphy.

For the majority of us on the sidelines of the Fort McMurray fire, it is impossible to understand what evacuees are going through. Many have no idea what — if anything — remains of the homes they were asked to leave immediately on Tuesday, when the entire city was put under a mandatory evacuation order.

It’s one thing to ponder what you would take from your home in the case of an emergency, given only a moment’s notice, I can’t imagine how entirely different it is to experience that firsthand.

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And in all this, I started thinking — do we have a farm evacuation plan? Do you? Would I have the faintest clue what to do first if we were to even consider leaving the farm in an emergency?

I emailed Tanya Bettridge, administrative and public education support for Perth East and West Perth Fire Departments in Ontario.

“There are two different types of evacuation plans that come into play,” she wrote back. “Building and Property.”

And each has a subset of questions to answer in planning for an emergency event.

Building – In the case of a barn fire or property-specific event, a plan needs to answer the following:

  • How do you and other workers exit the structure from each area?
  • Are the exits clearly marked?
  • Are occupants able to call 9-1-1 and is the address visible? Do they know the address?
  • How often do you practise evacuating the building?
  • How do animals get out of their containment areas (stalls, pens, cages, etc.)?
  • How can animals be evacuated quickly once they are out of their containment areas?
  • What measures need to happen in order to physically evacuate each type of animal?
  • Where will animals be directed, once outside the structure?
  • Do you have an agreement with neighbours, should the animals require off-property housing and transportation?
  • Do you have an accurate record of inventory of animals? Where is it kept and is it easily accessible?
  • What kinds of needs do your animals have once they have been evacuated? How will you address those needs?

Property – In the case of a widespread emergency that affects multiple properties or a large area:

  • How quickly can occupants and animals be evacuated from your property?
  • How will be they be transported, and by whom?
  • Where will they be taken?  What if that destination also requires evacuation?
  • What biosecurity measures need to be in place during this process?
  • How will the animals be fed and watered, both during transport and at the destination?
  • What measures need to be in place, should their stay be extended or long-term?

Bettridge also emphasized the importance of home escape planning.

“Know two ways out,” she advised. “Have a designated meeting place, ensure everyone in the home knows the plan and practise it.”

Some fires can be prevented.
For more information:
check out Perth East’s Farm Fire Safety Guide and
the Government of Canada’s Emergency Preparedness for Farm Animals.

“Remember, when it comes to any kind of emergency, the plan prevents the panic.”

 

Debra Murphy

Debra Murphy is a Field Editor based out of central Alberta, where she never misses a moment to capture with her camera the real beauty of agriculture. Follow her on Twitter @RealAg_Debra

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