Preparing to Evacuate Your Farm in a Flood-Prone Scenario

Floods October 09, 2013 Print Friendly and PDF

Preparing to Evacuate Your Farm in a Flood-Prone Scenario

When flooding is in the forecast

In flood-prone areas, or areas in which flooding has been anticipated, an emergency plan for evacuation should be considered.

A farmstead disaster plan must consider the safety of:

  • Family members and co-workers
  • Livestock
  • Emergency response personnel to assist in recovery efforts

It must also include a plan to protect:

  • Crops
  • Equipment and machinery
  • Agricultural chemicals
  • Water supplies
  • Food stores for animals

Long-range preparation

If flooding is common to your area or anticipated this season, take these precautions:

  • Create an emergency plan of action, considering such things as areas of high ground for animal relocation, temporary milking facilities and approval to use them, equipment relocation and safe pesticide storage.
  • Make sure cattle are properly vaccinated before being exposed to floodwaters.
  • Arrange or be aware of standby services for emergency milk pick-up.
  • Have a plan for moving grain out of reach of floodwaters.
  • Provide riprap on banks of earthen manure storages where flowing water may erode berms.

Short-term preparation

If time is available, take the following precautions:

  • Move machinery, feed, grain, pesticides and herbicides to a higher elevation. The upper level of a two-story barn, if available, makes a good temporary storage facility.
  • Open gates so livestock can escape high water, and ensure they have a good source of food and water.
  • If water is rising, try to drive stock through water free of obstructions. Grazing animals swim well, but fences and other obstacles can create problems. Long swims through calm water are safer than short swims through a swift current. Large animals often will seek shelter in barns in emergency situations.
  • Leave building doors and windows open to equalize pressure during flooding and help prevent buildings from shifting.
  • If possible, move motors and portable electric equipment to a dry location.
  • Disconnect electric power to all buildings, which may be flooded. If in doubt about how to disconnect power, call your utility company.
  • Tie down lumber, logs, irrigation pipes, fuel tanks and other loose equipment or material. Secondary containment is another possibility for fuel tanks, as well as pesticide storage.
  • To keep surface water out of a well, use materials such as heavy plastic and duct tape to seal the well cap and top of the well casing.
  • Secure loose items such as machinery parts and tools.


A comprehensive accounting of livestock, property, or potentially hazardous substances is essential to farmstead disaster preparedness.

Livestock may be killed, lost, or stolen during an emergency situation. Attach animal identification tags on all animals and note the ID number and description of the animal.

Maintain a list of machinery and equipment, including make and model number. Keep an updated list including quantity of pesticides, fertilizers, fuels, medicines and other chemicals. During a disaster, these chemicals can wash into streams or contaminate food supplies, placing people and animals at risk.

Disaster supply kit

In addition to family disaster kits, agriculture producers should also keep on hand additional supplies to protect the farm, including:

  1. Sandbags and plastic sheeting, in case of flood
  2. Wire and rope to secure objects
  3. Lumber and plywood to protect windows
  4. Extra fuel for tractors and vehicles in a safe location
  5. Hand tools to assist in preparation and recovery
  6. Fire extinguishers at all barns and in all vehicles
  7. A safe supply of food to feed livestock
  8. A gas-powered generator in case of power failure


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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.