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Keep Your Farm Site Safe

Identify What You Need to Protect and Explore Viable Options to Put Protection in Place


April 13, 2022 | View PDF

By UNMC, Central States Center for Agricultural Safety and Health, Omaha

What do you want to protect?

That’s the first question Purdue University College of Agriculture’s Fred Whitford advises farmers to ask when considering how to make their farm site safer.

“With all of today’s rules and regulations, farmers may find it challenging to add another task,” Whitford says. “Right now may be a good time to make your site more secure. Theft and vandalism tend to increase during cycles of high fuel and chemical prices. But set up something you will use and can maintain, otherwise you’re wasting time and money.”

In the early stages of planning a security system, it’s important to review insurance coverage to determine what types of theft and vandalism are covered under an existing policy. Consider scenarios such as what happens if someone steals fuel and leaves the pump running, spilling fuel onto the ground. Will your insurance policy cover cleanup costs?

Among the options for increasing security are detecting people on your property, limiting access to the property with gates, lighting dark areas, protecting computers, bank accounts, etc.

“Consider what concerns come to mind when you think about a security breech,” Whitford says. “Are you concerned about theft of chemicals or equipment, damage to property, or simple trespass? If you want to make farm buildings more secure, that may be as simple as upgrading locks. Limiting access to property might be achieved with installation of gates.”

Conducting a building assessment can help identify any security issues that need to be addressed. Building upgrade options include door and window locks, protective window film, replacing doors, exterior lights, surveillance cameras, and alarm systems.

“The more specific you are regarding what needs to be protected, the more easily your security plan will come together and the more effective your security equipment will be,” Whitford says. “If you bring a security company to your site to provide insight, share your security goals with them and ask for references of previous farm customers. Tell them what you need, because farm sites may be out in the middle of nowhere, which makes securing a farm site far different than securing other types of industry.”

It can be helpful to discuss security needs with local retailers, who are well acquainted with securing similar facilities and like products.

“If you’re a customer, invite that retailer to visit your site and offer security input,” Whitford says. “They’ve experienced break-ins and vandalism, fires. Take advantage of the expertise they can offer to help you better understand your security risks.”

Local fire departments can also provide valuable insight regarding securing a farm site because they are often on the front line of security breeches, especially those related to on-farm emergencies. Frequently, volunteer firefighters in rural areas have farm backgrounds or are farmers themselves. Conducting a walk-through of the farm site can help identify high security risk areas and concerns that may not otherwise be obvious.

Once security goals are outlined and equipment options are explored, Whitford recommends prioritizing security needs if it’s not feasible to complete all goals at the same time. This helps ensure that the most urgent security issues are quickly addressed.

“One high security priority is probably deterring trespassers,” Whitford says. “What helps keep people from coming onto your property? Lights, gates, good locks, sometimes even signs. These simple steps will probably eliminate 90% of crooks, thugs, thieves, and petty criminals from entering your farm site.”

For the 10% to 15% of criminals who are more bold, installing motion detectors and surveillance cameras around buildings and doors will make it more difficult for them to gain access to items they may want to steal.

“These types of criminals know what they’re looking for when they come to your property,” Whitford says. “They already have a market for the products or tools they’re searching for. Some people install cameras that are visible, but don’t actually work. This may be a way to deter people from attempting to steal or vandalize property.”

Anytime an employee leaves, farmers must ensure they’ve given back any keys to buildings or equipment, especially if they left on bad terms. For computers, immediately change passwords and remove any access they may have had to financial assets or records.

One other layer of security that can save both lives and assets is making sure that emergency responders have the information they need if they come to the farm site to assist with an emergency. A simple map of the farm can be created using graph paper to show where buildings, roads, and bridges are located. The map can include information about products stored in the buildings, the width of roads and bridges, location of creeks, etc.

“On that map, indicate where power switches are located so all power to the site could be turned off, if necessary,” Whitford says. “This helps emergency responders make effective decisions to protect all aspects of your property.”

“When you think about spills and fires on the farm, don’t be reactive to these kinds of emergencies,” Whitford says. “Take proactive steps to provide emergency agencies with the information they need to do their work.”

Other types of information that can be filed with local emergency staff include notations regarding medical allergies or specific medical issues that may affect their work if they respond to an emergency. It’s unwise to rely on family members – especially youth – to recognize when those kinds of details may become a matter of life or death.

“We all tend to think that bad things happen to everyone else, not to me,” Whitford says. “Are you willing to take the risk that you won’t experience an emergency? You have that choice. However, give some thought to how you can protect your farm site. Identify what needs to be protected, and review your most effective options. Focus on protecting your family first, then your property. Simple things like locks, gates, and keys can make an important difference in the safety environment of your farm.”

Funding for this educational article comes from the Central States Center for Agricultural Safety and Health and the University of Nebraska Medical Center.


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