Six steps to on-farm emergency preparedness (Credit Corner)
(Editor’s note: Johanna Rohrer is a marketing specialist with MidAtlantic Farm Credit.)
The current pandemic we are facing has forced a lot of operations to go into emergency mode and to think about the future of their farm.
My family has been having conversations about our orchard and grain farm for the last month and what we would do if one of us were to have to step in or change roles.
Having a plan and organizing your resources beforehand will help to lessen the negative impact and protect your farming operation and the legacy of your land.
How to Create an On-Farm Emergency Plan
• Step 1. Create a Physical Plan: Hypothetically, if something happened to the decision maker on your farm, would they be able to continue operating? Would the person who is stepping in have all the necessary resources to be a successful replacement?
Evaluate your daily operations and create a plan that provides step by step instruction on what needs to be done and answers specific questions that a successor might have. Make sure to keep it somewhere that is easily accessible to all stakeholders.
Here are some important details your emergency farm plan should include a communication plan (internal and external); how to keep the farm running business as usual; emergency contact list; what to do in case of (insert emergency here); and identify resources that should be evaluated regularly for inventory levels
During uncertain times, monitor current risks and be prepared to create new processes or resources to include in your emergency preparedness plan.
• Step 2. Organize Your Contacts: Knowing who to contact for help is critical for your farm operation to be prepared to react to an emergency. Do you currently have a list of emergency contacts in your farm office or on your refrigerator in your kitchen? Updating your emergency contact information will help prepare you for easy access to reference and direction to reach out for help.
We’ve created a blank emergency contact form that you can use to fill out at mafc.com to help provide your farm operation with clear direction on where to turn for help and who to contact.
• Step 3: Communicate the Plan with your Team: Creating a plan like this will require a transparent conversation with your staff and family. Make sure to walk through the plan with them and give them the opportunity to ask questions – you can use those to add to your plan to make it even more helpful. Updating this plan yearly and providing regular training on these items will help your team be prepared for just about anything.
Other ways to “communicate” certain parts of the plan include making copies of the plan available in different places on the farm and creating easy to read signage that helps people locate emergency equipment and other important buildings or access points on the farm.
• Step 4. Identify your Risks: Identifying your farm risks and gathering information about what disasters or hazards are most likely to happen on your farm is an important conversation to discuss with your insurance providers. Protecting your farm with a tailored policy and understanding what types of losses are covered can help you to better manage your farm risk. Challenge yourself to think about your health, farm, crop, and liability protection for your farm.
• Step 5: Know and Gather Your Resources: Knowing your on-farm inventory of supplies and inputs is important to help manage your day to day operations. Don’t wait until something is needed – be proactive and try to keep a list of resources onsite.
Also think about intangible resources. Creating and establishing valuable relationships with agricultural professionals and service providers can serve as an additional resource contact for your farming operation.
• Step 6: Take Ongoing Measures to Protect Your Farm: Creating operating procedures and best management practices is important to building a network of support to overcome an emergency. Implementing onsite practices like sanitizing, keeping an up to date customer list, identifying an on-farm drop off location, following biosecurity protocol, and logging all deliveries and on-farm entries can help you be more prepared for an emergency.
As you develop your plans and procedures, keep them all together so you can re-evaluate them on a yearly basis.
Most of your emergency preparedness plan may stay the same from year to year, but making regular updates and monitoring what you currently have will keep you and your farm prepared for just about anything.
Read an extended version of this article and download our emergency contact form at mafc.com/blog/six-steps-farm-emergency-preparedness