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Emergency Preparedness for Rural Communities


Rural communities are vulnerable to any number of hazardous or threatening situations. Emergencies in rural communities can impact human life, property (sheds, garages, barns, homes, greenhouses), livestock, crops and business.

Additionally, in many rural areas, emergency or response resources may be limited. In the event of an emergency, individuals and businesses need to be self-sufficient for at least 72 hours.

Power outages in rural communities

Power outages can occur from a variety of situations (e.g., natural disasters) and can last for prolonged periods of time. This can present unique challenges in the home for ensuring your family’s safety. Taking preparedness actions now can help your family safe and healthy.

  • Listen to your battery-powered or crank radio for situation developments.
  • In a major prolonged outage, check your local municipal facilities (e.g., community centre, library, etc.,) for posted outages.
  • Depending on the amount of time you will be without power, it may be best to remain at home (e.g., temporary outage) or evacuate (e.g., power outage in winter with loss of home heat).
  • If driving to another location, proceed with caution and be alert to traffic lights that are not working.
  • Use standby or backup power sources for emergency power. Only use generators outdoors. Generators are a major cause of fatal carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Use battery-operated light sources (flashlights or glow sticks). Do not use candles due to the risk of fire.
  • Never use gas ovens, gas ranges, barbeques or propane heathers for indoor heating.
  • Surges or spikes can occur when the power returns; this can damage electrical equipment. Turn off and unplug any electrical equipment (e.g., electronics and appliances).
  • This helps to eliminate potential fire hazards and lessens the power draw when service is restored.
  • Keep one light turned on so you will know when the power is back on.
  • Do not close buildings tight to conserve heat, since animals could suffocate from lack of oxygen.
  • Open vents to facilitate natural air flow. Clear any debris from all vents.
  • Poultry facilities should be equipped with knock-out panels for emergency ventilation.
  • In dairy facilities, open doors or turn cow’s outside.
  • Mechanical feeders will be inoperable during a power failure.
  • Have a plan in place for emergency feeding procedures.
  • Provide all animals with plenty of water.
  • Your water pump may be driven with a small gasoline-powered engine; otherwise, you will need to haul water.
  • If you have an outside source of water, cattle can be turned out.
  • Regardless of the source of water, be sure it remains clean and safe for animal consumption.
  • As a last resort, dairy cattle can be fed their own milk if there is no water available.
  • If the power outage occurs during winter weather, back-up heating measures will be needed.
    • Be sure to read instructions to know if a course is appropriate for use both indoors and out.
  • If the power outage occurs during hot weather, back-up air conditioning or ventilation will be needed.
  • Plan ahead to have the necessary equipment ready for these situations.

Farm emergency preparedness plan

Protecting your farm involves a number of considerations: family members, co-workers or employees, buildings, equipment, livestock, and crops. Planning ahead for all-hazard situations can help to minimize the impact and speed the recovery process for you and your farm.

  • What disasters or hazards are most likely in your community? For your farm?
  • How would you be warned?
  • How should you prepare for each?
  • See Step Three: Get a Kit and to find out more information, read the Personal Emergency Preparedness Guide.

Draw a farm site map and indicate:

  • Buildings and structures
  • Access routes (e.g., roads, lanes)
  • Barriers (e.g., fences, gates)
  • Locations of livestock
  • Locations of all hazardous substances
  • Electrical shutoff locations, etc.

Make a list of your farm inventory, include:

  • Livestock (i.e., species, number of animals)
  • Crops (i.e., acres, type)
  • Machinery and equipment (i.e., make, model number)
  • Hazardous substances (e.g., pesticides, fertilizers, fuels, medicines, other chemicals)
  • Your veterinarian
  • Police, Fire, Paramedic Services
  • Insurance agent
  • Livestock or milk transport, feed delivery, fuel delivery, etc.
  • Review your insurance coverage
  • Get additional coverage for “all-hazard” situations (e.g., flood, hail damage)
  • Sandbags, plastic sheeting in case of flooding
  • Wire and rope to secure objects
  • Lumber and plywood to protect the windows
  • Extra fuel for tractors and vehicles
  • Hand tools for preparation and recovery
  • Fire extinguishers in all barns, in all vehicles
  • A safe supply of food to feed livestock
  • A gas powered generator

Identify areas to relocate your assets (e.g., higher elevation), if needed

  • Livestock and horses
  • Equipment
  • Feed, grain hay
  • Agrochemicals (e.g., pesticides, herbicides)

Remove or secure any loose equipment or materials, such as lumber, fuel tanks

  • Inform them of the farm’s emergency plan; review it with them regularly.
  • Identify shelter-in-place, evacuation locations, muster points.
  • Establish a phone tree with contact information for all employees.

Livestock emergency preparedness plan

Emergency situations can impact livestock and horses. Due to their size and special shelter and transport requirements, planning ahead for emergency situations is imperative.

  • Are animals located outside or housed indoors?
  • What is the risk of illness or injury to animals at these locations?
  • Keep a current list of all animals on your farm.
  • Include their location and any records of vaccinations or testing.
  • Make sure animals have some form of permanent identification (e.g., ear tags, tattoos).
  • Make sure you have records of ownership for all animals, in cases of loss or displacement.
  • Install a generator to run the well pump
  • Handling equipment (e.g., halters, nose leads)
  • Water, feed and buckets
  • Medications
  • Tools and supplies needed for sanitation
  • Cell phone, flashlights, portable radios, power bank and batteries
  • Basic first-aid kit
  • Safety and emergency items for your vehicles and trailers
  • Gas powered generators
  • Locate and prearrange evacuation sites.
  • Determine routes to these locations and have alternate routes planned as well.
  • Make arrangements for trucks, trailers, or other transport vehicles for livestock as well as experienced handlers and drivers.
  • Condition animals to being loaded and transported.
  • Plan how handling equipment and veterinary care will be obtained at the evacuation site.
  • Arrange for feed and water delivery for the evacuation site.

Establish escape routes to safe locations (e.g., higher elevation)

  • Keep animals from unsafe locations (e.g., barns in flood situations, under trees in severe thunderstorms).
  • Assess the stability and safety of barns and other structures.
  • Remove dead trees or other debris in fields or animal holding locations.
  • Remove or secure any loose equipment or materials, such as lumber, feed troughs.
  • Make sure wiring for heat lamps or other electrical machinery is safe and away from flammable debris.