From the Desk of Extension-Preparing for a Farm Emergency

UW Madison Division of Extension Dodge County has launched a new effort to support Dodge County residents especially during these uncertain times. We are calling it “FROM THE DESK OF EXTENSION-(article topic)”.  This will be a weekly article covering topics from our programmatic areas of agriculture, families, youth, and food/nutrition. The articles will address current issues facing residents through the lens of those program areas. Thank you for supporting our mission to bring relevant research based information and education to the residents of Dodge County.

Amanda Young | Dairy & Livestock Educator |  UW-Madison Division of Extension Dodge County

April 12th – 16th, 2021, marks Wisconsin’s Tornado & Severe Weather Awareness Week, making this week a perfect time for farms of all sizes to think about creating or updating an emergency action plan.

Farms, like most workplaces, face unexpected emergencies and disasters. Agricultural emergencies and disasters can be natural (tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfires, floods, severe winter storms, severe dust storms, lightning strikes, earthquakes) or human-made (wildfires, explosions or fires, animal handling incidents, grain entrapments, power failures, rotating and moving equipment incidents (power take-off shafts, screw conveyors/augers), chemical releases or spills, amputations, vehicle incidents (turnovers, rollovers), workplace violence, accidental poisoning). To help lessen these events’ impacts, farm owners, family members, and employees should develop and exercise an emergency action plan that prepares everyone to react to and handle emergencies and disasters before they occur.

An emergency action plan identifies and organizes employers and workers responsibilities in preparation for and when responding to an emergency or disaster. A plan with the farm owners’ support and commitment and workers’ participation is key to an orderly and quick response. Developing and implementing an emergency action plan can reduce confusion, decrease injuries to people and livestock, and limit property destruction during and after a disaster or other emergency.

According to the Occupational and Safety Health Administration (OSHA), an emergency action plan should contain at minimum:

  • Emergency escape procedures and routes.
  • Procedures to account for workers.
  • Procedures for workers who remain on site after the alarm sounds.
  • Duties for workers designated to perform rescue and medical functions.
  • The preferred means for reporting emergencies.
  • Contact(s) for further information or explanation of duties under the plan.
  • Possible emergency events, incidents, and life-threatening situations.
  • Emergency escape routes, shelter-in-place locations, and rally points.
  • Floor plans and workplace maps.
  • A chain of command to prevent confusion and to coordinate the work.
  • Emergency communication equipment, such as two-way radios or a public address system for workers and first responder notification.
  • Special equipment needed for emergencies and disaster response.
  • Workers’ next-of-kin emergency phone numbers and contacts.
  • Farm inventory that includes the location of livestock, electrical shut-off locations, buildings and structures, and farm machinery/equipment makes and model numbers.
  • Needed supplies, such as sandbags, fire extinguishers, gas-powered generators, and hand tools.
  •  If needed, location of primary and secondary areas to relocate farm assets and workers.
  • The location of buildings in the vicinity, which can be a command post or logistical assistance area.

A well-documented plan should ensure that emergency response procedures are established before, during, and after an emergency. The best emergency action plans are customized for the specific farm operation and require time, thought, and planning. Include workers and family members in the emergency preparedness planning process to help identify emergency or disaster situations that can impact the farm. The plan should be revised once shortcomings have become known and reviewed at least annually. Additionally, the plan should be discussed with each worker when: the plan is developed, a new worker is hired, or the worker’s workplace responsibilities or designated actions under the plan change.

For questions about creating an emergency action plan, please contact Extension Dodge County at 920-386-3790 or Dairy and Livestock Educator Amanda Young at







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