Review Safety Measures to Prevent Fires on the Farm this Winter Season
With heavy snowfall blanketing several regions of New York State following Thursday’s storm, the State Department of Agriculture and Markets is reminding farmers about the importance of monitoring the weight load on structures, especially barns and other agricultural buildings, on their farms. Some areas of the State saw record snowfall, accumulating to totals of well over 40 inches, presenting potentially dangerous conditions on farms due to stress from the snow load.
State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said, “With record-setting snow falling in many areas of our State, we want to caution our farmers to be aware of the weight load on their barns and other agricultural buildings. As cleanup continues today, I encourage everyone to take a look at several great resources from our partners at Cornell to help ensure that snow is removed safely from buildings. Farmers should review this information and take all the necessary precautions to ensure the integrity of on-farm structures and the safety of their families, workers, and animals.”
Additionally, resources for keeping animals safe during emergencies can be found here.
New York State Fire Administrator Francis Nerney said, “The winter and holiday seasons mean heating and decorating and extra cooking, all of which have the potential to increase fire risk. During these times it is all the more important to make fire prevention a priority.”
Below are prevention and preparedness measures to reduce the risk of fire on the farm:
- Create a safety plan, including evacuation routes and meeting places for people and animals. Go over the plan with your staff.
- Invite the local fire department to tour the farm each year and review your safety plan with them. They may spot some areas to improve the plan.
- It is important to have several fire extinguishers located around your farm and to check regularly that they’re in working order. Remember, fire extinguishers are only helpful if used properly, so make sure staff members are trained to use them. It’s vital to put fire extinguishing power in the hands of emergency-trained employees.
- Install a fire alarm system. Quickly alerting everyone to danger is critical for a safe evacuation. Monitored systems also alert the fire department to automatically dispatch help to your location. There are also special requirements for flammable liquids storage. Check with your local codes authorities to see what is appropriate.
- Regularly check any equipment you would use during an animal evacuation to make sure it is readily available and working, and that staff know how to use it.
- Have animals appropriately and uniquely identified. RFID tags and an inexpensive RFID reader allow for easy and stress-free tracking of animals during emergency movement.
- Keep bolt cutters within easy reach in tie stall barns to allow for quick evacuation of animals.
- Make sure any hazards on your farm are clearly posted (chemicals, physical hazards) so that assisting emergency personnel are not put in harm’s way.
- As a rule, prohibit smoking in or around the barn, park tractors and vehicles away from the barn, and store machinery and flammable materials somewhere else.
- Store your hay properly. Damp, incompletely cured (dried) hay can generate heat through a bacterial reaction during the curing process, and can get to the point of spontaneous combustion. Measure the heat of your baled hay by inserting a temperature probe. Learn more about hay storage and temperature.
- Inspect electrical equipment and wiring regularly and correct any problems.
- Always plug major appliances directly into a wall outlet; never use an extension cord. Unplug small appliances when you are not using them.
- Replace worn, old or damaged extension cords right away. Use extension cords for temporary purposes only. Avoid putting cords where they can be damaged or pinched, like under a carpet or rug. Do not overload power strips and use power strips that have internal overload protection.
- Keep lamps, light fixtures and light bulbs away from anything that can burn. Use light bulbs that match the recommended wattage on the lamp or fixture.
- Do not overload wall outlets. Insert plugs fully into sockets. Never force a three-prong cord into a two-slot outlet.
- Flammable and combustible materials are least likely to cause health problems or fires if they’re stored in a cool, well-ventilated space. The ventilation your storage area requires depends on the amount and type of chemicals stored there.
More information about fire prevention and preparedness is available at https://eden.cce.cornell.edu/other-hazards/fire/.