Are you prepared for an emergency or a rescue situation on your farm? A better question is: Are the first responders in your area prepared and knowledgeable about your farm and the potential hazards on it?
Nobody wants to think about something bad happening on the farm, but our industry is a dangerous one and being proactive so you have a happy ending to an emergency or rescue is very important. I am involved in a project right now that will hopefully make a big difference in my county’s dairy farms.
The project is sponsored by Women in Farming, a group I am proud to belong to. It consists of women involved in dairy farming that care about our families, our community and our county’s dairy farms. The project we are currently working on is farm safety and being proactive to prevent farm accidents and emergencies. It’s a daunting and complex endeavor but we believe it is well worth the effort.
We are working closely with the National Farmedic Training Program to educate farmers, their families and first responders about what to do to prevent farm accidents, what to do and what not to do when there is an emergency and how to respond to that farm emergency or rescue and have a positive outcome.
We hope to partner with our local FFA clubs to implement farm mapping. The students will use GPS technology to produce farm emergency response maps that identify features on a farm that are important for emergency response personnel, such as firefighters.
Things included on the map would be the location of chemicals, dangerous flammable materials, electric and gas shutoffs, hydrants and specific animal locations. All farms are different, so these maps are very important to responding emergency personnel.
Knowledge of potential hazards on the farm can help first responders prevent unnecessary injuries or even loss of life. Knowing where these hazards are ahead of time can save precious minutes.
The benefits for the farm owner are that the first responders can better protect livestock and assets by knowing the locations and types of hazards on that specific farm. A more effective response can be provided when first responders are not concerned about not knowing the nature of the farm’s hazards.
Also, unnecessary damage to water and septic systems during an emergency could be minimized with farm mapping. Partnering with FFA will also have benefits to the students. They will learn the importance of farm safety and will become skilled in the use of GPS technologies. When the maps are completed, they will be put into a PVC-type tube with caps at both ends and stored in a location on the farm that should be common to all farms.
If possible, a copy of the map should be given to the appropriate fire department. It is also very important, obviously, for the fire department to know where the map is on your farm.
Another aspect of our Women in Farming group’s interest in farm safety and emergencies is first-responder training. Women in Farming will be hosting a two-day course to train first responders for farm emergencies and rescues.
Often, first responders find themselves in a muddy field or a barnyard where the farm equipment and machinery is stronger than the rescue tools. Sometimes all it takes is loosening one or two bolts to perform the rescue instead of cutting the machinery.
Manure storage rescue/recovery is one of the main concerns. The deadly gases that build up in the storage tanks are something every first responder needs to know about. PTO entanglements, silo emergencies (upright and bunk), tractor accidents, etc., will all be part of the rescue and farm emergency training.
How to deal with frightened animals is also something important to consider. Our hope is that with this training, there will be more successful rescues and fewer instances of first responders being injured or killed while attempting a farm emergency rescue. The two-day course consists of class time, farm tours and hands-on interaction with different farm equipment and rescue situations.
Educating the farming community is also a priority. So we will follow up the first-responder training with a class (or classes) for farmers and their families. The problem of having an emergency in the middle of a field in the middle of nowhere is huge.
You can use your cell phone to call for help, but how do you give an address? What if you’re alone and can’t flag down the first responders? The longer it takes them to arrive on the scene, the less likely for a positive outcome.
What not to do in an emergency becomes just as important as what to do. Attempting to help before the first responders arrive can make matters much worse. A simple thing such as labeling what is in your sprayer before you travel down the road can make the first responder’s job much easier if you are in an accident, especially if you are unable to respond to their questions.
Too many tragedies happen because of manure pit gases. You read about one family member falling into the pit and one or more people going in to try to make a rescue, with all of them being killed.
A great idea is to have the county’s 4-H clubs attend the safety class for the farming community. Kids are often the ones who are there when an accident occurs or are the first ones to come upon the accident or emergency. It’s important for them to know if they are able or even should help, depending on the scenario. The vital information they learn how to give to the 911 operator can mean the difference between life and death.
If you, your club, group or community are interested in implementing farm safety and emergency training, click here for more information on the program. There are costs involved, so it’s important you look for sponsors to help defray those costs.
There are 270 dairy farms in our county, and dairy is our number one industry. I hope that I and the Women in Farming can make a difference in our community. Being proactive about farm safety and emergencies is important for the farming community and for first responders. Don’t wait until tragedy strikes before you start planning! PD
Marcy, New York