Managing a farm emergency

Monday, August 20, 2012

Farming is one of the most dangerous occupations in the country.

In the event of a farm emergency, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," is an old, but appropriate adage. By being prepared ahead of time in case something does happen, you will minimize your risk.

When an emergency happens, don't hesitate to call for help. A small accident can escalate into a major catastrophe in a very short time. Calling 911 or the area firs-responders is the first thing you should do. Make sure you state your address first as in this day of cell phones you could be calling from anywhere. State the nature of the emergency whether it be a chemical spill, barn fire or other emergency.

When communicating with the first-responders, provide details about the situation. Start by stating that this is a farm and the nature of the accident. It is very important for the dispatcher to inform first-responders what they may face when getting to your farm.

Remember that many times first-responders may have limited experience on farms. It is important to realize that you are the expert on your farm. Don't assume first-responders know their way around your farm even if they have been to your farm before.

Inform the senior officer about any hazards such as chemicals in a building or a manure pit that may be under a floor.

Barn Fires

The most important thing to tell a 911 dispatcher is if everyone is accounted for. Knowing if someone is in the fire or not will be critical to how the firefighters' approach the fire.

If there have also been injuries, tell the dispatcher the nature of those injuries. Also, tell the dispatcher what is on fire and describe the fire. Inform the dispatcher of the contents of the building such as hay, animals, chemicals or equipment. Information such as if there is propane to the building and where the shut off is can be very important.

There are situations when a fire may need to burn itself out. The decision to let a fire burn is for the senior fire officer on the scene, not with you. Help them by giving them as much information as you can.

Someone Hurt

These are the most common 911 calls on a farm. Sometimes things happen and people get hurt. Common injury calls are when someone has an accident involving one or more of the following: Grain bins, silos, toxic fumes from manure pits, equipment shifting or overturning, equipment in contact with power lines, power takeoffs, livestock and pesticides.

There are many other places on a farm where someone can get hurt. Take time to make sure that all equipment is operating correctly and make sure if you have an open cap tractor that the RUP's bar is in place. Again when you call 911 give as much information as you can regarding the emergency, making sure to make your location clear.


Farms have several types of chemicals on their properties. These chemicals include pesticides and herbicides, anhydrous ammonia, liquid fertilizer, oil, gasoline, diesel fuel and antifreeze. Taking the time to make sure all jugs are labeled is the first step in managing a spill risk.

Also make sure that chemicals are in containers that are not leaking or broken, or could leak or break due to age. Securing these jugs and containers away from curious children can go a long way in preventing an injury.

The first thing a responder needs to know is what the product is with which they will be dealing. Having MSDS (material safety data sheets) available will help you give the 911 dispatcher necessary information.

Make sure you give the dispatcher the name of the products, the quantity spilled or ingested, whether anyone has been hurt or exposed to chemicals, if the chemical is contained or still moving and in which direction, which way the wind is blowing at site of the spill, if there is a well or body of water nearby and how the spill occurred.

With a little planning you can keep an accident from becoming tragic. It is worth a few minutes of your time to make sure that you, your farmer workers, family and environment are safe from farm accidents, or are well prepared if one does happen.

For more information, contact Ann Delchambre at 653-8411 or email

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: