Canadian Poultry Magazine

Poultry and the Pandemic: Emergency planning guide

By Stacey Ash   

Features Barn Management Farmer Health/Safety

Pork industry shares valuable toolkit with poultry producers to help them prepare for the unexpected.

Ontario Pork’s On-Farm Emergency Planning Guide is designed to be a hands-on resource for high-stress situations. PHOTO CREDIT: Adobe Stock

When a crisis occurs on-farm, the last thing you need to worry about is remembering your 911 address or the phone numbers of important contacts.

It was a situation like that – when an injured farm worker ended up driving himself to hospital after struggling to communicate his location to a 911 operator – that helped spur the creation of Ontario Pork’s On-Farm Emergency Planning Guide five years ago.

Emergency planning resources from the poultry sector inspired the guide, which was developed in consultation with farmers, government and industry. The original project and the 2020 updated version were funded in part through Growing Forward 2 (GF2), which is a federal-provincial-territorial initiative, delivered in Ontario through the Agriculture Adaptation Council.


The original version of the guide focused on common concerns at the time, including fires, flowing grain entrapment, hazardous material and manure spills, gas leaks, transport emergencies, storms, injuries and structure collapse.

The guide is designed to be a hands-on resource for high-stress situations. Farmers are encouraged to keep a copy near each barn’s exit door and in their main office.

The guide includes risk checklists, contact records, mapping tools, regulatory guidelines and biosecurity templates, available in either a bright-red binder or on a USB key. Completing the guide is a shared responsibility, with Ontario Pork staff support available to help each farm customize the supplied templates to their operation.

A total of 500 copies were printed in 2015, with most of those distributed to farms within the first year.

The guide was met with a positive response by both farmers and the agriculture industry as a proactive and practical way to support farm safety.

There are always opportunities to learn and grow, and this process was no different. The most important lesson was that the guide is a living document that must be reviewed, assessed and updated on an ongoing basis. When developing this kind of resource, it’s essential to plan for updates and change.

In 2019 and 2020, Ontario Pork’s Program Advisory committee undertook a review of the guide to ensure it met farmers’ current needs. Three areas of emerging concern were identified: Foreign animal disease; on-farm protests by animal rights extremists; and mental health.

In June 2020, again following extensive industry consultation and feedback, three new chapters were shared with producers.

The foreign animal disease chapter is designed to be applicable in multiple situations, from an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease, to the appearance of African Swine Fever in North America.

The chapter helps farmers plan for identification and reporting of disease, business continuity, euthanasia protocols and policies and disposal considerations.

The activism and protests chapter offers guidelines and templates to reduce the risk of activists entering farm properties illegally or under false pretenses, property security guidelines, and recommended response in the event of a protest or incursion.

The mental health chapter is not meant to replace professional help but provides some straight-forward information on self-care and self-assessment, as well as steps to take to support others who may be struggling. Most importantly, it includes an updated list of mental health resources in Ontario.

So far, the response from members has been strong, with many requests for new chapters and updated binders. A survey to assess the value of the tool is planned for the fall.

Stacey Ash is manager of communications and consumer marketing with Ontario Pork.

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