Everybody likes to talk about the weather. Nowhere is weather talked about more than in Canada. Everybody has had a conversation that starts out with the question: “Hot enough for you?” Farmers especially take weather seriously — after all fortunes are gained and lost due to the weather. Rain, hail, frost, wind, and snow all impact a farming operation. Severe weather not only has the potential to ruin crops, buildings and machinery, it also can pose a serious risk to human safety.
First of all, being prepared is the best defensive against a catastrophe. An emergency kit can save your or a family member’s life. Items like flashlights, extra batteries, wind-up radio, ready-to-eat food, water and first-aid supplies can make all the difference. It’s also important to create and share an emergency plan with family members and workers.
The summer presents specific types of severe weather events like thunderstorms, hail, wind, and tornados can impact life and limb. It’s important to be able to recognize potential threats to human health and safety.
Thunderstorms are a common occurrence during the summer months. A severe thunderstorm can be accompanied by hail, winds and even tornados. However, a thunderstorm doesn’t need hail, wind or a tornado to be dangerous. All thunderstorms produce lightning. According to Environment Canada, it is estimated that there are between nine and 10 lightning-related deaths and up to 164 lightening-related injuries per year. It’s easy to recognize a thunderstorm – remember, if you can hear thunder, you are within striking distance of lightning.
What to do during a thunderstorm:
- Try to take shelter immediately, preferably in a building or an all-metal automobile.
- If you are caught outdoors, stay away from tall objects and take shelter in a low lying area.
- If you are in a boat, get to shore as quickly as possible.
Remember, there is no safe place outdoors during a thunderstorm.
Hail can grow larger than 10 centimeters (the size of a grapefruit) and can hit the ground at 130 kilometers per hour.
Hail is an underrated danger — serious injuries have been reported due to hail. Just like in the case of a thunderstorm, the best response is to immediately seek shelter. If you are driving, pull safely over and remain in the vehicle.
Canada gets more tornados than any other country with the exception of the United States. They primarily happen during the summer, more specifically from May to September. It’s important to understand the signs of a potential tornado and how to respond if a tornado does develop.
Warning signs of a potential tornado:
- An extremely dark sky, sometimes highlighted by green or yellow clouds.
- Severe thunderstorms with frequent thunder and lightning.
- Wall-shaped clouds.
- A freight train or whistling sound.
- Funnel clouds.
What to do during a tornado:
- If you’re able, take shelter immediately in a basement or take shelter in a small interior ground floor room like
a closet or bathroom.
- If you’re in an open field, get out of the vehicle and lie in a low area or ditch with your arms over your head.
- Always try to get as close to the ground as possible.
Summer is a busy time for all farmers and often means working in hot temperatures. Working in very hot temperatures can be dangerous to your health and can cause heat stroke and heat exhaustion. There are plenty of precautions that can be taken to prevent heat-related illness.
- Wear lightweight clothing and a wide-brimmed hat
- Take breaks frequently.
- Drink water regularly.
- Slow down! Work at a slower pace.
- Work in the shade whenever possible.
If you do get overheated, don’t ignore the symptoms. Sudden and severe fatigue, nausea, dizziness and light-headedness are all warning signs that you need to take action. It’s important to get to a cool or shaded area, drink sips of cool water, apply a moist cloth to the skin and seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Summer is a busy time for farmers, but it’s important to know how dangerous the weather can be. Take the time to develop a plan, build an emergency kit and talk about how to respond to severe weather with the people on your farm. For more information about emergency kits, emergency plans and severe storms and other hazards, visit getprepared.gc.ca. For more information about farm safety, visit casa-acsa.ca.