Emergency Preparedness for Rural Communities

Emergency Prepared for Rural Communities

For more information on how to be prepared, check out the Personal Emergency Preparedness Guide.

Rural communities are vulnerable to any number of hazardous or threatening situations.

Emergencies in rural communities can impact:

  • Human life
  • Property – sheds, garages, barns, homes, greenhouses
  • Livestock
  • Crops
  • Businesses

Additionally, in many rural areas, emergency or response resources may be limited. In the event of an emergency, individuals and businesses need to be self-sufficient for at least 72 hours.

Power outages in rural communities

Power outages can occur from a variety of situations (e.g., natural disasters) and can last for prolonged periods of time. This can present unique challenges in the home for ensuring your family’s safety. Taking preparedness actions now can help keep your family safe and healthy.

During a Power Outage

  • Stay informed.
    • Listen to your battery-powered or crank radio for situation developments.
    • In a major prolonged outage, check your local municipal facilities (e.g., community centre, library) for posted updates.
  • Decide whether to stay or go.
    • Depending on the amount of time you will be without power, it may be best to remain at home (e.g.,, temporary outage) or evacuate (e.g., power outage in winter with loss of home heat).
    • If driving to another location, proceed with caution and be alert to traffic lights that are not working.
  • Use backup power.
    • Use standby or backup power sources for emergency power. Only use generators outdoors. Generators are a major cause of fatal carbon monoxide poisoning.
    • Use battery-operated light sources (flashlights or glow sticks). Do not use candles due to the risk of fire.
    • Never use gas ovens, gas ranges, barbecues or propane heaters for indoor heating.
  • Protect electrical equipment.
    • Surges or spikes can occur when the power returns; this can damage electrical equipment. Turn off and unplug any electrical equipment (e.g., electronics and appliances).
  • Turn off as many lights and other electrical items as possible.
    • This helps to eliminate potential fire hazards and lessens the power draw when service is restored.
    • Keep one light turned on so you will know when the power is back on.
  • Ensure ventilation for livestock.
    • Do not close buildings tight to conserve heat, since animals could suffocate from lack of oxygen.
    • Open vents to facilitate natural air flow. Clear any debris from all vents.
    • Poultry facilities should be equipped with knock-out panels for emergency ventilation.
    • In dairy facilities, open doors or turn cows outside.
  • Plan ahead for food and water for livestock.
    • Mechanical feeders will be inoperable during a power failure.
    • Have a plan in place for emergency feeding procedures.
    • Provide all animals with plenty of water.
    • Your water pump may be driven with a small gasoline-powered engine; otherwise, you will need to haul water.
    • If you have an outside source of water, cattle can be turned out.
    • Regardless of the source of water, be sure it remains clean and safe for animal consumption.
    • As a last resort, dairy cattle can be fed their own milk if there is no water available.
  • Environmental conditions for livestock.
    • If the power outage occurs during winter weather, back-up heating measures will be needed.
      • Be sure to read instructions to know if a course is appropriate for use both indoors and out.
    • If the power outage occurs during hot weather, back-up air conditioning or ventilation will be needed.
    • Plan ahead to have the necessary equipment ready for these situations.

Farm Emergency Preparedness Plan

Protecting your farm involves a number of considerations: family members, co-workers or employees, buildings, equipment, livestock, and crops. Planning ahead for all-hazard situations can help to minimize the impact and speed the recovery process for you and your farm.

Before a Disaster or Emergency

  • Gather information.
    • What disasters or hazards are most likely in your community? For your farm?
    • How would you be warned?
    • How should you prepare for each?
  • Stay alert for emergency broadcasts.
  • Put together a Family Emergency Go-Kit.
  • Draw a farm site map and indicate:
    • Buildings and structures
    • Access routes (e.g.,, roads, lanes)
    • Barriers (e.g., fences, gates)
    • Locations of livestock
    • Locations of all hazardous substances
    • Electrical shutoff locations, etc.
  • Make a list of your farm inventory, include:
    • Livestock (i.e., species, number of animals)
    • Crops (i.e., acres, type)
    • Machinery and equipment (i.e., make, model #)
    • Hazardous substances (e.g., pesticides, fertilizers, fuels, medicines, other chemicals)
  • Keep a list of emergency phone numbers, such as:
    • Your veterinarian
    • Police, Fire, Paramedic Services
    • Insurance agent
  • Make a list of suppliers or businesses providing services to your farm.
    • Livestock or milk transport, feed delivery, fuel delivery, etc.
  • Contact your insurance agent.
    • Review your insurance coverage.
    • Get additional coverage for “all-hazard” situations (e.g., flood, hail damage).
  • Stockpile supplies needed to protect the farm:
    • Sandbags, plastic sheeting, in case of flood
    • Wire and rope to secure objects
    • Lumber and plywood to protect windows
    • Extra fuel for tractors and vehicles
    • Hand tools for preparation and recovery
    • Fire extinguishers in all barns, in all vehicles
    • A safe supply of food to feed livestock
    • A gas powered generator
  • Identify areas to relocate your assets (e.g., higher elevation), if needed.
    • Livestock and horses
    • Equipment
    • Feed, grain, hay
    • Agrochemicals (e.g., pesticides, herbicides)
  • Remove or secure any loose equipment or materials, such as lumber, fuel tanks.
  • Prepare farm employees.
    • Inform them of the farm’s emergency plan; review it with them regularly.
    • Identify shelter-in-place or evacuation locations.
    • Establish a phone tree with contact information for all employees.

Livestock emergency preparedness plan

Emergency situations can impact livestock and horses. Due to their size and special shelter and transport requirements, planning ahead for emergency situations is imperative.

Before a Disaster or Emergency

  • Determine the hazards and risks for your area and animals.
    • Are animal located outside or housed indoors?
    • What is the risk of illness or injury to animals at these locations?
  • Maintain an inventory.
    • Keep a current list of all animals on your farm.
    • Include their location and any records of vaccinations or testing.
  • Have identification for all animals.
    • Make sure animals have some form of permanent identification (e.g.,, ear tags, tattoos).
    • Make sure you have records of ownership for all animals, in cases of loss or displacement.
  • Identify alternate water or power sources.
    • Install a generator to run the well pump
  • Prepare an evacuation kit.
    • Handling equipment (e.g., halters, nose leads)
    • Water, feed, and buckets
    • Medications
    • Tools and supplies needed for sanitation
    • Cell phone, flashlights, portable radios, and batteries
    • Basic first aid kit
    • Safety and emergency items for your vehicles and trailers
    • Gas powered generators
  • Make evacuation arrangements.
    • Locate and prearrange evacuation sites.
    • Determine routes to these locations and have alternate routes planned as well.
    • Make arrangements for trucks, trailers, or other transport vehicles for livestock as well as experienced handlers and drivers.
    • Condition animals to being loaded and transported.
    • Plan how handling equipment and veterinary care will be obtained at the evacuation site.
    • Arrange for feed and water delivery for the evacuation site.
  • Establish escape routes to safe locations (e.g., higher elevation).
    • Keep animals from unsafe locations (e.g., barns in flood situations, under trees in severe thunderstorms).
  • Establish a safe environment for animals.
    • Assess the stability and safety of barns and other structures.
    • Remove dead trees or other debris in fields or animal holding locations.
    • Remove or secure any loose equipment or materials, such as lumber, feed troughs.
    • Make sure wiring for heat lamps or other electrical machinery is safe and away from flammable debris.