Ice storms and the Dufus Factor

At every meeting where I talk about the ‘Dufus Factor’ I ask for a show of hands of who in the audience has been involved in removal of dead pigs from a production facility following a power outage. I have yet to do a meeting where no hands have been raised. This suggests that as an industry we don’t pay enough attention to our power outage safety equipment at production sites.


In almost every instance of pig death, the cause of death is heat, not ‘suffocation’ as most commonly think of the term. With fast growing pigs in a finishing facility, total heat production (both latent and sensible heat) can be almost 1000 btu/hr/pig in late finishing. When you model thru this much heat output, you quickly realize that you have less than 30 minutes from a power failure until you need to have emergency heat relief mechanisms in place.


These mechanisms are generally stand-by generators or sidewall curtain drops. I still come across too many sites where the back-up is a pto-generator. In theory these are adequate, but can they be in place and operating within 30 minutes of a power failure? If you rely on a pto-generator, can you always get to the site with the generator operating within 30 minutes? Even if you attend an out-of-town basketball game or attend a church dinner in the next community?


If you rely on curtain drops, do you test them at least 4 times per year to be sure they function correctly? If you test them and/or they operate in a power failure, do you maintain a written record as proof that the system was functional? This written proof of maintenance of the emergency system can become very important in the event of an insurance claim.


If you have an automatic start generator, you cannot use the generator’s hour meter as proof of the system working. The hour meter only proves the generator ran, not whether the transfer switch worked.


Does your alarm system work? I continually come across alarms at sites where there is no dial tone to the alarm, or the grower/owner says he has had times of no dial tone. There is no excuse of this failure and a lack of a dial tone could constitute negligence on the part of a contract grower.


If you have 3-phase power to the site, are all 3 legs of the 3-phase alarmed? I am aware of 2 instances where only 1 leg was alarmed and pig deaths occurred with no alarm call.

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