Each year, tens of thousands of farm animals die in barn fires across Canada.
It doesn’t take long for a smouldering fire to erupt into a blazing inferno. Most barns are packed full of possible fuel sources, from large quantities of hay, straw or chemicals to the buildings themselves.
Yet, many of the simplest protection and prevention techniques recommended by farm and fire experts across the globe are not currently standard farm practice. In provinces like Ontario and Manitoba, fire codes do not require barns that are housing animals to have fire detection systems like smoke alarms and heat detectors, or fire suppression systems like sprinklers.
As the farming industry grows and farms become more automated, fewer humans are required to be on site for day-to-day operations, thus classifying these barns as “low human occupancy”. Under codes like this, animal barns are classified the same as storage lockers, and livestock are considered stored goods.
Evacuating animals from burning structures is often impossible once a barn fire has started, and animals suffer greatly before they die, both physically and psychologically. Planning, training and preparing for barn fires is the most reliable, humane and cost-effective approach to barn fire safety.
A good fire safety and evacuation plan can help prevent tragedy, speed up response times and protect human and animal safety. Up-to-date emergency procedures can reduce risks to both farm employees and animals and greatly improve response times in an emergency. These tragedies don’t need to happen. Precautionary measures prevent the majority of fires and help to control fires if they do happen.
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Here are 12 key barn fire prevention tips for Canadian farms
- Host an open house for emergency services personnel in your area to familiarize them with the layout of your property
- Undergo a thorough check of every barn with a fire safety officer
- Schedule regular fire safety inspections – at least once a year
- Make a fire safety plan, train all owners and employees in executing the plan and post an outline of the plan in high-traffic areas throughout each barn
- Conduct fire drills with all employees and all animals so that everyone knows what to do in case of fire
- Install one 10-pound fire extinguisher at every exit and additional extinguishers at 50-foot intervals throughout the barn
- Store all flammable materials separate from animal living quarters, including fuel, hay, used bedding and motorized equipment
- Remove cobwebs at least once weekly
- Ensure that at least one fire safety point person is scheduled at all times – someone who is well-versed in the emergency plan and would feel comfortable taking action should a fire start
- Ensure that the farm name is prominently displayed by the road, making it easy for emergency responders to identify the correct site and arrive in a timely manner
- Have wiring checked periodically for fraying, wear or rodent damage
- Ensure every light bulb and heat lamp in the barn is covered with wire guards and is placed several feet away from any flammable materials
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