Rural Emergency Plan helps protect rural Alberta firefighters and families
New tool a good fit for producers storing chemical products
Posted: November 4, 2008
When firefighters respond to an emergency in rural Alberta, their attention is often pulled in many directions. In a split second, they have to decide which structure they need to save first and how to stay safe while doing so. Complicating this is the fact that farms are often home to a number of facilities containing hazardous material such as pesticides, fertilizers and other crop input products.
A new program has been designed to address the unique emergency needs of rural Albertans while offering emergency personnel a guide to tackling emergencies quickly and safely. It's a benefit to farmers who store crop chemicals and fertilizers on-farm and want to ensure they are acting responsibly in the process.
The Rural Emergency Plan (REP) is an emergency response map that each participant fills out for their own location. It is stored in a simple ABS tube holder that is typically mounted on the main power pole or another central area where it can be easily identified and accessed by emergency personnel.
Developed by the Alberta Environmental Farm Plan Company (AEFP) and the Alberta Fire Chiefs Association (AFCA), the REP was designed based on input from farmers and emergency personnel. "We've spent a lot of time in urban areas talking about exit plans, getting out and staying out, and other messaging," says Peter Krich, fire chief for the City of Camrose, which piloted the program.
"But while that's still relevant to rural homes, there are some differences. There are often a number of buildings other than the home, and chemicals and other potential hazards are stored on site. This program helps to make sure that the locations of all of those hazards are identified.
"If the landowner fills out the map, that means they have a plan in place to protect themselves. But this also helps us as emergency responders because we know if there are chemicals or other hazards. It means we're not heading into the unknown."
REPs typically include a map of the farmstead, a runoff map, emergency phone numbers, a checklist and other key information emergency personnel might need to make fast and effective decisions. For landowners, the REP process is simple and user-friendly. Participants access an instruction kit and construction design from their local fire department or from the Web. The kit includes an REP template as well as instructions on how participants can build their own storage tubes. Landowners should then contact their local fire department to let them know where the plan is located in the event of an emergency.
The program was developed based on part of the Environmental Farm Plan (EFP) process in which farmers are required to develop an emergency plan. With no existing tool in place, AEFP worked with AFCA with financial support from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development to develop a pilot emergency plan.
It was then tested on farms in two areas of the province in 2007. The program received positive feedback from farmers and the support of provincial fire chiefs, with 900 tubes distributed. The current REP has been extended to rural landowners because, as Krich says, they are a unique audience in the case of an emergency.
"When we first launched the pilot program, I was speaking to a group of 300 and when I asked, none of them had an emergency plan in place. Each one of those landowners now has the information to do an REP and we hope that this success will spread province-wide, so an emergency situation doesn't turn tragic."
More information available
For more information on the REP and for production guidelines, visit the AEFP Web site at www.AlbertaEFP.com and click on the REP icon, or contact your local fire department. The tubes are also being promoted as a fundraising opportunity for groups interested in selling them. More information on fundraising in Alberta is available from local fire departments throughout the province.
Author: Jeff Melchior
Sponsored by: The Alberta Environmental Farm Plan Company