Are you prepared for an emergency?

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How prepared are you for an accidental spill, fire or explosion on your farm?

Do the people you work with know what family members they should call if you were seriously injured? We all get caught up in the day-to-day tasks and forget that life as we know it can change in an instant.

In Coshocton County we were reminded of this recently with the explosion at the Coshocton Grain Co. For those of us that work closely with these folks our first thought and concern was for the safety of those who work there.

Once we were assured that there were no casualties and everyone was going to recover from the trauma and injuries, we started thinking about how we would deal with such a nightmare.

Made me think

I will be the first to tell you that I’ve taken this type of planning and training lightly in the past. The Grain Company incident made me think about the people I work with and how we would handle such a crisis.

How would we ever contact employees’ family members in case of an emergency? The most recent forms we found required home phone numbers but not cell phone numbers. Most of them were for people already retired.

Needless to say, emergency planning was a topic at this week’s staff meeting. Here are some specific things to consider:

• Designate a meeting spot for employees and family members. Grain company personnel knew where their employees would meet and could communicate with emergency personnel when everyone was accounted for because of training. We talked about this at our staff meeting, and now everyone is aware of where we would meet if something were to happen.

I can’t imagine how frightening those minutes would be until everyone was accounted for, but emergency personnel need to know how many people they must locate.

• Have names and phone numbers of employees’ family contacts so you can contact them for the injured person. Grain Company personnel were able to communicate with their employees for this information, but what if someone was unconscious?

We now have an emergency contact folder which includes family members’ names and phone numbers. It is located near our office exit to be accessible in an emergency evacuation.

• Initiate a practice drill several times a year to determine how you would handle an emergency event. Talk about the drill afterwards and discuss how you can make improvements.

The Coshocton Fire Department trained with The Coshocton Grain Co. before this crisis, so it was not their first trip to the facility.

They understood the situation and quickly assembled aide from departments throughout the county.

• Make certain that any comment you make about the incident is factual; do not repeat “gossip.” With today’s social media, rumors spread very quickly.

In our recent situation it was said that people had died. How guilty would you feel putting someone’s family or friends through this unnecessary heartache?

We were all worried sick until we knew that everyone at Coshocton Grain was safe. Hearing these unfounded rumors didn’t help anyone.

• Attend local training exercises and events for emergency situations. Coshocton SWCD worked with the Coshocton Emergency Management Agency (EMA) last spring to host a Grain Hazards & Farm Safety training for local farmers and first responders.

This training and communication between the two sectors can help everyone when an emergency occurs.

It was emphasized at this training to invite the fire department and/or EMA out, get to know them by name, and show them hazards around your farm.

Remember, many of these people may not understand how your equipment works, and this communication could save a life on your farm someday.

More ideas

I’m sure you can add some ideas of your own to this list.

Emergency planning is something none of us wants to think about, but recent events prove how important it can be. Take some time to plan and discuss an emergency procedure for your operation because you never know what lies ahead.

Grain bins, buildings, and machinery can all be replaced. Your emergency planning could save the most important part of your operation: you, your family members, and employees.

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Raised on a grain farm in Morrow County, Deb Bigelow is the program administrator for the Coshocton Soil and Water Conservation District. She can be reached at debbigelow@coshoctoncounty.net.

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