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It’s Tornado Season. Is Your Farm Ready?

bbspen2.jpg Just like I'll never forget the blizzard of 1997 that left hundreds of thousands of cattle dead in its wake, I will never forget the tornadoes of 1998. On May 30, 1998, the most destructive and second deadliest tornado in South Dakota history struck Spencer, SD. The Spencer tornado was the third of six spawned by the same supercell thunderstorm.

It was chore time, and the weather service was warning locals about the oncoming tornadoes via the radio. Mom and Dad hurried to finish feeding hay, and we headed down to the basement and settled in underneath the tables. But, before we rushed downstairs, I snuck a peak out the kitchen window. I saw two, mile-wide tornadoes creep slowly past, side by side, making their way along the prairie.

Although our family wasn’t personally impacted by those tornadoes, my memory of them remains vivid because it was one of those tornadoes that completely wiped out the small town of Spencer. It’s funny how some of our most vivid memories are formed by the weather. As ranchers, our whole world can be turned upside down by an unexpected tornado, blizzard, flood and, for some, even a hurricane.

Tornado season is just around the corner in many parts of the country. The Nationwide Agribusiness Insurance Co. has compiled a few tips to keep in mind to prepare you for Mother Nature’s surprises.

“Over 100 years, we have learned that most accidents are preventable; that when disasters happen, damage can be minimized in many cases; and that advanced preparation is not just smart, but directly affects a farm or ranch’s profitability and long-term growth. We recommend you prepare for tornadoes, hurricanes, floods or other natural disasters by having an active, up-to-date Emergency Action Plan (EAP). In an emergency, it can provide a clear path through the chaos as well as save precious time when minutes count,” says Gary Douglas, president, Nationwide Agribusiness Insurance Company, Des Moines, IA.

Here are tips for what to include in your farm’s or ranch’s emergency action plan. The best idea of all: keep it simple!

Basic Elements of an Emergency Action Plan

1. Document emergency escape routes and procedures for each building on your property.

2. Identify procedures to be followed by the people who remain to handle critical operations before they evacuate.

3. Document procedures to account for all people and employees after an emergency evacuation.

4. List who will be responsible for and how they will report fire and other emergencies.

5. Develop and maintain a list of all people connected with your farm or ranch who should be contacted in an emergency, listing names and all pertinent contact information – owners, family members, employees, employee family members, suppliers and anyone else who is on your farm or ranch on a regular basis.

6. Develop and maintain a list of emergency contacts – local law enforcement, fire departments, emergency medical responders, gas and electric providers, hospitals, insurance companies.

7. Include a map of your farm or ranch with all buildings (and contents) designated.

8. Have contingency plans for where you’ll house livestock if barns or dairy parlors are damaged or destroyed.

9. Designate a location for offsite storage of important documents and records.

Douglas concludes, “As farmers know all too well: Mother Nature is unpredictable. But being prepared with an emergency action plan is a great investment in helping preserve what farmers and ranchers have worked so hard to build.”

Do you have any memorable tornado, flood, blizzard or hurricane stories to share? Has your family been impacted by the weather? How did your family cope?