Farm Fire and Emergency Sketch
Farm fires, especially those involving livestock, are a devastating and stressful event for farm families. The property damage, loss of poultry or livestock, interruption of production and injuries cost the Ontario agricultural industry millions of dollars a year.
What is a Farm Fire and Emergency Sketch?
A farm fire and emergency sketch is an aerial photo of your farm that identifies significant farm features, fire risk areas, water sources and access routes for emergency vehicles. Developing this sketch is an important first step in preparing for emergencies, as information given during an emergency, when stress levels are high, can be sporadic and incomplete, or the person who has the information may not be available.
The sketch can also be used for:
- training your family and employees for emergency situations
- developing a preventative maintenance and housekeeping schedule to reduce the risks of fire
- ensuring the safety of first responders during an emergency
We recommend that you store your sketch at your operation to have on-hand in the event of an emergency. It's also a good idea to share it with local fire prevention officers or use it as a basis for a fire prevention inspection (a service offered by some municipalities). Giving first responders the sketch ahead of time will help them to know potential risks on your farm, and provides an opportunity to improve their response to an emergency.
Creating a Farm Fire and Emergency Sketch
Step 1: Aerial Photo
Get an aerial image of your farm and property. You can find an aerial image of your farm using the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs' (OMAFRA) Agricultural Information Atlas (AIA) at ontario.ca/agmaps. However, an aerial image from any source will work.
Step 2: Farm Fire and Emergency Checklist
With the help of first responders, we compiled a checklist to help you identify the important items to include in your sketch (attached). Items included in the checklist are based on first responder knowledge of how farm fires start, how fires could have been prevented and the site specific details that affect the response to a fire or emergency.
Using the checklist as a guide, identify all of your farm's features on the aerial image using labels. You can label the features by hand, with icons, stickers or shapes, or whatever helps you to create a comprehensive and legible sketch. We have attached a page of icons that you can use for your sketch. If the sketch becomes too cluttered, use more specific aerial images to break down your sketch into the various sections of your property.
In addition to the checklist, here are some other items to consider for your sketch:
- where you think the highest risks are
- areas of the farm where combustible materials are stored close to sources of ignition
- where livestock can be corralled if it is possible to turn livestock loose in the event of a fire
Step 3: Legend
Create a legend that describes what each label or icon on your sketch means, and always keep the legend with the sketch. Include emergency contact information in the legend or on the map.
Figure 1 is an example of a completed farm fire and emergency sketch with a legend. The sketch shows that the farm keeps 45 dairy heifers and 250 feeder hogs in separate barns. It identifies the laneway access to the property, location of the equipment shed and any fuel or chemical storages. A safe meeting place where all people are to gather in an emergency is marked.
Figure 1. Example of a completed farm fire and emergency sketch with legend
The items in the checklist and on the sketch will vary from farm to farm and may change over time, so we recommend that you regularly review your sketch and update it if necessary.
There is more you can do to create a safer farm for you, your family, your employees and your livestock.
Train your family and employees in how to respond during an emergency. Review the sketch with family members and employees to identify safe meeting spots, evaluate laneway accessibility and discuss livestock management in the event of a fire.
Use the sketch in combination with the checklist to identify any areas on your farm that could be updated for safety. Reviewing these areas on a regular basis will not only reduce the risk of fire, but also increase the safety of everyone on the farm during an emergency, including first responders. This might include
- trimming branches and tree limbs
- clearing laneways and paths during winter
- storing flammable materials properly and away from ignition sources
Contact your municipal office and fire department to see if they offer fire prevention services. Many insurance companies, as well as the Electrical Safety Authority, offer inspection services for the purpose of reducing the risk of a fire. Review your farm fire and emergency sketch with them as they may have additional advice on how to reduce the risk of fire or other emergencies. They may also review their response protocols in the event that a fire does occur.
Talk to different groups or farm organizations about how to manage livestock during a crisis. They may have information available about livestock behaviour during farm fires. Understanding how livestock behave under stress can make a huge difference in managing expectations or rescuing them during fires.
- Perth East Farm Fire Safety Program
- OMAFRA Publication 837, "Reducing the Risk of Fire on Your Farm"
- Farm & Food Care emergency resources
Farm Fire and Emergency Checklist
Date Sketch Created:_______________________________
Farm name _______________________________________
__Spills Action Centre 1-800-268-6060
__Union Gas or propane supplier
Roads and Laneway Access
__Roads to farm, including nearest crossroads
__Safety meeting point
__Traffic control (someone to direct fire trucks, block roads from public traffic, etc.)
__Any potential access barriers
__Inaccessible sides of buildings
__Seasonal access points
__Soft laneways not suitable for larger vehicles
All Utility Shutoffs
__Hydro (per building and farm)Natural gas
__Anaerobic digester generator
__Solar panel disconnect
Alternative Energy Sources
__Solar panels - ground mounted
__Solar panels - roof mounted
__Battery bank location
Onsite Water Sources
__Surface water - ponds, rivers, creeks
__Tile inlets and catchbasins
__Surface water (in case of spills)
__House or other residential area
__Permitted smoking areas
__Indicate all livestock housing buildings and type of livestock in each building
__Attic access points
__Bale or feed chute
__Accessible doorways and gates for livestock
__Combustibles (hay, straw)
__Underground __Above ground
__Slatted Flooring materials
__Concrete __Plastic slats
__Manure clean out (holes in floor or walls)
__Pass through holes (poultry)
__Pesticide, herbicide, etc.
Existing Fire Prevention
__Internal fire walls or doors
__Fire retardant curtains
__Other: (list - e.g. dry hydrant)
This web page is intended for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide engineering, legal or other advice. OMAFRA does not guarantee absolute accuracy or sufficiency of subject material, nor can we accept responsibility for health and safety recommendations that may have been omitted. We recommend that you consult with your own professional engineer or lawyer as applicable to determine the best course of action or legal requirements applicable to your farm.
For more information:
Toll Free: 1-877-424-1300