Traverse City Record-Eagle

Business

May 3, 2014

Ag Forum: Emergency planning on the farm

Dotting the landscape along rolling Leelanau County roads, red address markers are interspersed among the standard green address markers found next to nearly every resident’s mailbox statewide.

Rather than displaying a numerical address, the red signs contain a code consisting of letters and numbers and seem to be randomly spaced along the road. So, what exactly is the purpose of the red address signs?

Upon further observation, the signs are found next to the orchards, vineyards, and farm fields scattered throughout the county. Each sign represents an emergency plan filed by the grower with First Responders. Developing an emergency plan is a proactive step taken by growers to handle any number of agricultural accidents that could take place on their property.

“A plan outlines the specific procedures to be utilized for both off-site responders and growers/employees when responding to a hazardous materials incident at their facility,” says Tom Skowronski, emergency management director for Leelanau County. “Oftentimes, we see growers realize there are little things they can do themselves to reduce or eliminate the risk of accidental spills or releases when they follow the guidelines provided to them in the workbooks.”

The workbook utilized by local growers was created by Michigan State University Extension (Extension Bulletin E-2575) and provides a practical step-by-step guide for growers to map out their operation and outline the necessary response to any accident that could occur on their property. The grower can take simple steps, such as creating spill kits containing personal protective equipment, absorbent material (Oil Dri or kitty litter), a shovel, and a fire extinguisher suitable for petroleum or chemical fires and keeping these kits accessible wherever hazardous products are stored.

Another component of an emergency plan is a map outlining all buildings and structures on the farm. This includes identifying where hazardous products are stored, the location of water access from a well or surface water, and where the electrical shut off is located. Agricultural chemicals are often the most significant farm risk, and growers should update their emergency plan whenever there is a change in storage location or quantity or type of chemicals found onsite. A complete plan filed with First Responders assures growers are in line with Michigan’s Firefighter “Right To Know” Law and includes the possibility of reducing insurance premiums for growers.

County Local Emergency Planning Committees will assist growers. Growers can contact their emergency management director or their local Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP) Technician for assistance in completing an emergency plan.

Jessica Rasch is a Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program technician with the Grand Traverse Conservation District.

 

 

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