Emergency Action Plans

While we don’t like to think about it, last night’s bad weather in Minnesota with tornados, loss of power and general destruction of building sites should be a good reminder that every production unit needs to have an updated emergency action plan in place.

Many producers think of emergency action plans as having to do with lagoon spills, manure pumping issues, etc. However, the best action plans include provisions for such things as power failures, facility damage, etc. While you aren’t going to read the plan when a catastrophe occurs, if you’ve thought about it when you created (and reviewed) your emergency response plan, chances are your reaction to events will be better.

As readers of this blog are aware, I am always ‘harping’ on the issue of emergency systems in the event of a ventilation failure at a site. That is, are the curtain drops maintained and/or the generator and transfer switch functioning so heat removal can happen when the system fails. For big pigs, my models of heat transfer in facilities suggest you have no more than 30 minutes to begin removing heat from a facility full of pigs before death loss begins to occur due to hyperthermia. In nurseries and wean-finish facilities with smaller pigs, you’ve got up to 1 hour before deaths begin occurring.

In addition to emergency ventilation, does the emergency plan include details of dead animal disposal in the event of a catastrophe? If you were to have 500 pigs die due to a ventilation failure, fire, gassing associated with pit pumping, etc., what would you do with the carcasses? In most states, the general requirement is disposal in an approved manner within 24-48 hours? If you use a rendering service, can they deal with this many pigs in this time frame? If you are going to bury the dead animals, what are your state and local requirements for the burial pit? How many feet above ground water does the bottom of the pit need to be, how much dirt must be on top of the burial pit at closure, what about distance to any water sources, long term record keeping requirements, etc.? Is composting approved for disposal in the event of a catastrophe? If yes, how much residue will you need to source to make an effective compost pile or windrow?

In the event of a tornado or fire, how will you dispose of the ruined structural components? Can you bury/burn on-site or do your state and local regulations require disposal at an approved landfill? Must you separate recyclable materials such as metal gating, roof tin, crates, etc from wood components? What about any hazardous materials such as asbestos floor tiles in an old office area or asbestos cement board in old buildings?

There are commercial firms that specialize in site clean-up following a catastrophe. Have you checked them out for location, costs, etc? Better to have an idea of who to call and what it will cost prior to an event than be stuck calling around to see who is available, etc. What about insurance to cover the cost of disposal?

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