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Preparing for an emergency

A crisis on the farm may mean days without water, electricity or phone service. 
Here is a checklist to help keep family and livestock safe.

A major natural disaster occurs every year, so an emergency plan to save people and animals should be done in advance.

“We have had generally one natural disaster a year where livestock or large animals have been affected,” said Bob Andes, director of emergency management services at Alberta Agriculture.

This year is a high fire risk because of dry conditions throughout the West.

“It happens every year, but you don’t know where and you don’t know when,” said Clayton Bradley, a range manager with British Columbia’s forestry ministry.

Keep a first aid kit on hand, along with flashlight, batteries and medication. | File photo Keep a first aid kit on hand, along with flashlight, batteries and medication. | File photo

Many of the 90,000 people who recently had to be evacuated from Fort McMurray, Alta., because of a massive wildfire had minutes to spare and left without money, food, water or a change of clothes.

In rural areas people can contact municipalities about emergency planning but when disaster strikes, they often have to depend on themselves, said Andes.

“Being prepared for what you as individuals are going to do is really important,” he said.

He recommends keeping a large tank of water on a truck to put out grass fires before the situation gets out of control.

Keep farmyards free of dry brush, grass and weeds to remove potential fuel in the event of fire.

The provincial and federal governments have compiled checklists to deal with emergencies on the farm. People should be prepared to be self- sufficient for 72 hours because there may be no electricity, phone service or water.

The safety of people comes first during an emergency, followed by animals and then buildings.

  • Post emergency contact numbers in farm buildings.
  • Register property, poultry and animals in the premises identification system so that you can be notified of major dangers such as disease and wildfires.
  • Contact family and friends in the case of evacuation so they know where you are.
  • Contact your insurance company.
  • Take valuable papers, documents, water and non-perishable food if there is an immediate evacuation.
  • Contact your local municipality for information or assistance.
  • Prepare and maintain a fuel-reduced area that has been heavily grazed with a minimum of stubble. If possible, disc or plow around the outside area. The area should have water and shade. It should be away from forested areas.
  • Be prepared to round up livestock and provide them with feed and water. Remember that animals may panic or become aggressive and resist rescue.
  • Keep a current list of all animals, including their location and health and feeding records.
  • Have temporary identification for animals, such as plastic neckbands and permanent markers with your name, address and phone number.
  • Consider spray painting your phone number on the sides of livestock in the case of a fast moving fire. Attaching identification similar to a luggage tag on halters is another option.
  • Have handling equipment such as halters, blankets and appropriate tools on hand. Include bolt cutters to quickly free animals in an emergency.
  • Have an evacuation route and make sure family and employees are familiar with it. Remember that roads could be restricted or closed during an emergency.
  • Arrange in advance to have a place to shelter animals, such as fairgrounds, auction yards, other farms or exhibition centres.
  • Animals may be commingled, so make sure they have proper identification such as ear tags or brands.
  • Try to minimize contact among commingled animals to avoid the spread of disease.
  • Keep in touch with a veterinarian in case of disease or accidents.
  • Make sure there is sufficient feed and medical supplies at the evacuation centre. Protect feed and water from wildlife and birds.
  • Have access to trucks, trailers and other vehicles to move animals, Make sure that experienced handlers and drivers are available. A portable loading ramp may be required.
  • Ensure that milking equipment is available if cows need to be milked. Milk pick-up companies will need to be notified.
  • Remove old buried trash. It is a potential source of hazardous materials during flooding that may leech into crops, feed supplies, water sources and pasture.
  • If there is a threat of flooding, ensure that in-ground manure pits or cisterns are kept at least half full of water or other liquid so that they are not damaged by rising groundwater.
  • Chemicals should be stored in secured areas, preferably on high ground or shelving off the ground. These areas should be protected so that chemical spills will not result in runoff or seepage.
  • Identify alternative water and power sources. A generator with a safely stored supply of fuel may be essential to power milking equipment and other electrical equipment necessary for animal well-being.
  • Install a hand pump and obtain enough large containers to water animals for at least a week. Be aware that municipal water supplies and wells may be contaminated during an emergency.
  • Turn off the electricity when leaving the farm.
  • Have a basic first aid kit on hand and keep a cellphone, flashlights, portable radios (with weather radio band) and batteries.
  • Keep special needs items on hand, including prescription medicine, infant formula and diapers, food and water for pets and extra keys for home and vehicle.
  • Other supplies include cash in small bills and change for payphones; two litres of water per person per day; paper, pencil and whistle; toiletries, including toilet paper and garbage bags; and tools such as a screwdriver, pocket knife and hammer.
  • Visit the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association website at for more information about dealing with animals that are caught in a disaster.
  • Public Safety Canada offers further information at
  • For more information on preparing emergency kits, visit
  • In British Columbia, report a wildfire, unattended campfire or open burning violation by calling 800- 663-5555 toll-free or *5555 on a cellphone.
  • For the latest information on current wildfire activity, burning restrictions, road closures and air quality advisories, visit
  • In Alberta, a new beta website has been launched at to better relay details of the province-wide fire ban and municipal bans across the province.
  • Wildfire and fire ban information is also available in Alberta by calling 866-394-3473.
  • In Saskatchewan, call Fire Watch at 800-667-9660.
  • In Manitoba, visit or call toll free at 888-267-8298

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