Tips to Keep Farms Safe During & After Winter Storm

Posted: Updated:

Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
Press Release

The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) has advice for farmers who lost power or suffered other damage from the March 6 snow storm that blanketed the Mid-Atlantic area.

In many parts of the state, the storm is still alive. During the storm, VDACS advises farmers, and citizens, too, to stay informed. "Listen to your local news and weather channels for situation developments, forecasts and road closures," said VDACS Commissioner Matt Lohr. "This is not the time for satellite radio or cable TV. You need to listen to or watch stations in your area."

If you are caught outside during the storm, try to find shelter out of the wind and snow. Stay dry and cover all exposed parts of your body. Plastic trash bags can keep footware or clothing dry and provide protection from the wind.

Advice for farmers after the storm:

  • If you have an emergency plan, activate it now and get our your emergency stash of food, water, batteries, a camera with a charged battery, dust masks, medications, blankets and a first aid kit. A good plan also will include emergency phone numbers and plans for caring for farm workers, plus an evacuation plan for people and pets.
  • During cleanup, wear sturdy shoes or boots, layered clothing, warm head coverings and gloves.
  • Avoid over exertion. Strain from the cold and the hard labor of shoveling snow or clearing roofs could cause a heart attack, a major cause of death in the winter.
  • Pace yourself and take your time. Your instinct will be to hurry, but work slowly and rest frequently to protect your health and maintain endurance.
  • Lift small loads. You may be tempted to think that the bigger the load, the faster you'll finish and can move on. But if you throw your back out or strain muscles, you could put yourself out of commission.
  • When lifting a hand-held snow shovel, be sure to have good footing and life with your knees, not your back.
  • Operate gas powered equipment carefully. Remember that a properly installed transfer switch is critical to hooking up a generator in order to protect farm facilities and utility workers.
  • Be mindful that using gas-powered equipment for heat can generate dangerous carbon monoxide. Use these items only in well ventilated areas.
  • As soon as you have taken care of immediate needs such as moving livestock to safety or removing snow from poultry house roofs, take account of your inventory. Note any livestock losses and take photographs for insurance purposes.
  • Check buildings and fences for damage from downed trees or power lines or accumulated snow and ice. Only remove trees off power lines if you are absolutely certain the line is dead.
  • Take photographs of all damage for insurance or emergency assistance purposes. Report losses and damage as soon as possible to your insurance agent.
  • If damage in your county is widespread, you may want to contact your local Farm Service Agency and Virginia Cooperative Extension agents to determine if they will be collecting loss assessments for possible federal assistance.

"Farmers who work carefully and who document losses as soon as possible will be ahead of the game after the storm," said Lohr. "After the event is over and you have power again, I encourage you to write down the lessons learned and make it part of your plan for the next emergency. There's nothing like a good plan to minimize damage and facilitate the cleanup afterwards. So think – and plan – ahead for next time"