Are you prepared for a fire at your production facility?

Last week I had a discussion with a producer who was familiar with many of the details of the fire and animal loss at the sow unit near Truman, Minnesota recently. This led to a discussion of what should producers be doing to prevent such losses at their sites.

I don’t claim to be the first to think up the following list of items. I’ve seen many of these suggestions at emergency preparedness meetings and on fact sheets prepared by the National Pork Board. However, over time many of these items don’t get done at production sites as people turn-over occurs.

When a fire department responds to a call to a production site, we can’t assume they have any familiarity with our production facilities. In many cases the local volunteer fire department is comprised of insurance agents, barbers, grocers, coop employees, etc. While they live and work in small towns and have some knowledge of agriculture, they don’t have specific knowledge of how your facilities are constructed.

My neighbor is the local fire chief and he has told me many times that having information about the layout of a facility is invaluable in dealing with a fire. In the case of homes, knowledge of where the children’s bedrooms are located greatly increases the chances of being sure all children are out of home as the fire department responds to the fire. The same thoughts apply to your production facility.

Have you ever invited the local fire chief to tour your production facility? Such a tour would give him a chance to think about where they could intervene in a fire to prevent the spread to adjacent buildings. It would let him understand which facilities had fire stops in attics, which facilities had stainless steel fire stop doors, etc. He would also have good advice for you on possible fire risks in your facility.

Have you given your fire department a map detailing the layout of your production facilities? Does this map include the shut-off points for both gas and electric lines? If you have a farm pond nearby, does it detail the best access point for emergency water? When the fire department first arrives on-site, this information is vital for their success in containing the fire.

Have you thought about what you can do on-site to prevent the spread prior to the fire department arrival? I was with a production manager last week and as we discussed this topic he immediately said that they could take a tractor on-site and knock-down a connecting hallway between facilities to contain a fire. However, he also said it was not something anyone had discussed in a production meeting with the employees on-site.

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