Farmers Encouraged to Coordinate Emergency Plans with First Responders

National agriculture associations are urging farmers to engage with local first responders to prepare action plans for farm emergencies. Some of Virginia’s agriculturalists are already a step ahead.

The U.S. Poultry and Egg Association and other commodity groups recently released the first in a series of videos that will help farmers identify essential aspects of emergency action plans for their operations.

The initiative emphasizes the advantages of engaging with local emergency professionals—a measure one Hanover County farm family implemented in March. The farm hosted personnel from Henrico Technical Rescue Team who demonstrated grain bin extrication equipment provided by Virginia Farm Bureau Federation’s Farm Safety Advisory Committee.

Such coordination efforts allow responders to better understand the potential hazards they may face when responding to an on-farm emergency. They also give farmers insight into the accident response capabilities available within their communities.

Henrico County’s specialty unit is trained for unusual rescue situations like extrications or incidents involving confined spaces. The March trainings at Engel Family Farms in Hanover County were led by Lt. Charles Smith of Henrico Firehouse 1.

He explained to unit trainees that not all regional farmers have access to modern, safe equipment like what they saw at Engel.

“There’s not a lot of money in farming, and a lot of smaller farmers don’t have the updated equipment with safety features,” Smith said. “They get in a hurry because it’s supposed to rain next week, and they have hundreds of acres to get off the ground and into storage. Sometimes it’s about speed and efficiency over safety, and they get themselves in a bind.”

Dana Fisher, VFBF Safety Advisory Committee chair, said farmers need to know how to assist first responders in the event of an accident. The safety team recommends farmers update their emergency plans and farm maps at least annually, and share them with local emergency providers.

“Safety on the farm is always a priority. The partnership between first responders and local farmers and ranchers is critically important, as is assuring effective coordination during an on-farm emergency,” said John Starkey, president of USPOULTRY, speaking on behalf of the commodity groups involved in developing the emergency plan videos. “Helping public safety personnel understand farm operations and providing information to help them respond swiftly and effectively is essential in a time of crisis.”

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