Are You Ready for a Disaster?

Mother Nature doesn’t necessarily care whether or not you’re ready to face the next disaster headed to your farm. An ice storm isn’t going to wait to strike until there are plans in place, nor will a tornado selectively level a different farm while you get everything in order.

“Every season we see situations that are reminders of how we need to have those action plans in place. Whether it’s a snow storm, ice storm, tornado, flood or even a fire, there are so many things that can happen on our farms,” says Cindy Cunningham, assistant vice president of communications with the National Pork Board.  

Free resources are available from the National Pork Board at to help guide producers in preparing for disasters. Even so, it’s not always easy for producers to realize the urgency of making these plans until it’s too late.

“It’s always hard to plan for a bad situation. There are so many things we have to do day-to-day. It’s easy to put that planning off and think, ‘Oh I’m never going to have to deal with this situation,’” Cunningham says.

“If a producer can take even a few minutes and work on the Emergency Action Plan and the Farm-Level Crisis Plan, when something does happen on their farm they are able to respond that much more quickly and that much more efficiently,” she adds. “It really is like an insurance policy when you have those plans in place.”

The plans Cunningham mentioned may seem overwhelming and time consuming at first glance, but don’t underestimate the National Pork Board. There are step-by-step guides, interactive worksheets and other means of assistance available to help producers design plans tailored to their farms.

Emergency Action Plan
As part of the PQA Plus program, the Emergency Action Plan is designed to address situations on the farm as they occur to keep operations running normally.

For instance, if an ice storm hits and there’s no power at a site, the Emergency Action Plan reminds producers to have a generator and other tools in place to ensure pigs are well-cared for throughout the situation, Cunningham explained.

Interactive, online worksheets guide producers through each step of the plan, starting at the basics, like operation information and site contacts. In the event of a system failure or manure spill, would you know who to call? The completed worksheets can be saved to a computer and printed out to have available to all employees as required by Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations.

“Those Emergency Action Plans are critical for producers looking at all kinds of natural disasters and how they would deal with those situations,” Cunningham says.

It covers a multitude of scenarios. For example, would your team know who to call in the event of a system failure? Could a fire in the feed equipment spread to a nearby barn or could you call for help quickly?

With the completed Emergency Action Plan, this information and more would be available to everyone on your team, as is required by OSHA regulations. Go to to learn more.



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Submitted by Glenn Carpenter on Wed, 02/21/2018 - 07:20

JoAnne. Good article. In 2015, USDA NRCS created a national conservation practice standard to provide technical assistance on emergency mortality handling. Since that time, NRCS has entered into contracts with nearly a thousand producers to implement this standard. Part of this assistance is a plan that identifies emergency contacts, sites for burial, and alternative types of disposal. I believe NRCS soil scientists have indicated that over 70 percent of soils in the U.S. are not suitable for burial, which really limits this as an option. Producers of all types should plan for emergency mortality handling, whether it is caused by a weather event or a disease like the PEDV that hit the swine industry a few years ago, or the HPAI that hit the poultry people. Emergency mortality planning is not something that anyone should put off doing until it is needed. Plan it and hopefully that plan will never be needed. Thanks.

Glenn Carpenter, Ph.D.
National Leader Animal Husbandry
USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service
Washington, DC

Submitted by Eric Wessels on Wed, 02/21/2018 - 08:24

It turns out the proliferation of confinements in Iowa is the disaster. We weren't ready. And Republicans seem to oppose disaster relief.