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Preparing for a disaster: steps for creating a farm emergency action plan

By: Claire LaCanne, Agricultural Extension Educator for Rice and Steele Counties

Due to the current height of snow drifts and record-breaking snowfall in February, areas in Rice and Steele counties are experiencing flooding issues this spring. Homeowners and farmers can take steps to prepare for such disasters. In Minnesota, farmers should generally consider having emergency plans in place for tornadoes, floods, severe snowstorms, and fires. Here are some tips for creating an emergency plan for disasters that may hit the farm.  

Create a map of your entire farm site. Include buildings and structures as well as access routes including roads, lanes, and driveways to the farm site as well as on-farm routes. Other items that are important to include are fences and gates, locations of livestock, locations of hazardous substances, and locations of shut-offs for electricity, water, and other utilities. You certainly already know where everything is, but seeing it drawn out in front of you will help you see opportunities and challenges. Also, find out what alert plans are in place for your community, and figure out the best way for you and your family to receive notices.

Next, make lists. List your farm inventory (largely for insurance purposes) and include all livestock on the farm, listing species and number of each species. Also include crop types, number of acres, and whatever crops you have stored on the farm. All machinery and equipment, including serial numbers, should be on the list as well. Also include hazardous substances such as fuel, fertilizer, and medicines. For your own sake, keep a list of emergency contacts: family members, county emergency management, insurance company, livestock veterinarian, and doctors. Make a list of the businesses that supply services to your farm. This could include your milk processor, feed and fuel delivery, and anyone else who is on the farm regularly.

Create an action plan. Determine what actions you need to take and who needs to be contacted. When creating an evacuation plan, refer to the map you created and think through some scenarios; your plan may differ depending on what kind of disaster you’re facing. Consider - what is the best escape for animals? Which gates need to be opened?  What happens if a route is blocked? Along with your animals, make plans for your people. When creating your plan, make sure you have emergency supplies on hand. Think along the lines of fire extinguishers, sand bags, and generators, and tools. Designate areas to utilize in an emergency for livestock and equipment relocation. This is also a good time to review buildings for any structural compromises or loose materials. 

Be sure you understand your insurance coverage and know what your policy covers. If you’re not sure, it’s important to take the time now, before disaster strikes, to review your insurance policies and contact your insurance agent to review your coverage for emergency and disaster situations. 

For more information about flood preparedness and recovery, visit the University of Minnesota Extension website at:

Claire LaCanne

Agricultural Extension Educator

Rice and Steele Counties

University of Minnesota Extension

Rice County: (507) 332-6165

Steele County: (507) 444-7691

Cell phone: (507) 330-0447