Canadians are advised to be able to survive without municipal services for up to 72 hours in an emergency. For rural and farming residents, outages could last much longer.
Is your farm prepared for 72 hours without power, gas, phone, emergency services or even cellphone and Internet?
Preparing a house in town for a 72-hour break is an enormous task; preparing a farm can seem monumental. You may think you’re prepared, and you could be, but when was the last time you checked? Or practiced?
The Canadian government has a website: getprepared.gc.ca, but resources like this are no use if you don’t use them. If you’re like a farmer I know whose excuse is, “I’m too busy farming,” you’re putting yourself, your family and farm at huge risk.
One farm’s story
We have beef cattle, horses, companion animals and a small child. We live in a rural area which can have, at times, limited road access. We choose to live here, so we have to take responsibility and plan for times when we won’t have municipal services.
Our check list includes:
- Food, water, medications and animal care supplies
- Generators and fuel
- Pump and hose
- Well maintained equipment
- Fire extinguishers
- Supplementary water supplies for livestock
- Shelter and feed for animals
- Supplementary heating
- Alternative cooking tools (solid fuel stove, propane and wood pellet barbeque)
- Food that does not require freezing or refrigeration
- Extra medications and first aid kits
- Animal health kits
- Leashes and crates
- Halters and ropes
- Weather radio
- Emergency power source for phones and other electronics
The most important thing we have, however, is a plan we practice. We know what to do in a severe summer storm, we know what to do in a deep freeze with no power and we know where to put our livestock in a drifting blizzard. We time each other, we practice and we communicate. We also understand that sometimes one of us may be alone to take care of things when the unexpected happens.
The safety of your family comes first. Making sure you have safe places in case of a storm and that you can start the generator and know first aid is key. We subscribe to weather alerts on our smart phones. We watch both U.S. and Canadian radar maps for storms. A storm coming from the south can give you a day’s warning if you look at the U.S. radar, but only hours if you rely solely on Canadian forecasts.
Even children can learn first aid and CPR. Find a certified local trainer and get your whole family trained. Make sure you have everyone’s medication on hand — allergy medication and needs for chronic medical conditions. Make sure your pets can be crated and handled if you need to evacuate with them. Always have your vehicles fueled up and in working order. Even a quad or tractor can be a life saver, but not if they don’t run.
Canada has federal and provincial laws and regulations regarding the care and welfare of all animals. In essence they state that you cannot knowingly leave an animal to suffer and die. That includes evacuating or abandoning your property and leaving animals behind without food, water and shelter in safety. Of course, most of you wouldn’t knowingly cause harm to your animals.
Have you planned for their care in a 72-hour or longer situation? How will you provide water, feed and shelter? Ventilation in confinement housing is a big concern. Most producers with intensive or high population operations have redundant systems with multiple back-ups. But how long can you rely on your back-up system? Was it designed for six, 12, 24 or more hours? When did you last test it?
Animal caregivers need to be aware of conditions like freezing rain that can adversely impact the animals in their care. For range animals, freezing rain can be deadly. Can you provide shelter and ice removal? What about footing in an ice storm for cattle? Creating trails to get stranded range cattle to feed may require some literal leg work on your part. Maybe you could make a temporary shelter from bales. Or move the animals to a treed shelter and still provide feed and water. How would you deal with injuries?
Weather extremes and the loss of municipal services are realities. Our preparation is what will make the difference on our farm, to our family and to our community. If the power went out right now, and a storm blew in, would you be ready? Right now? If you don’t know, maybe now, while the lights are on, would be a good time to start. †