Imagine all the time that you spend winterizing your property: for example, making sure winter clothes and coats are adequate; and having feed, water and shelter available for the animals on the coldest days. As you go through your winterizing checklist, you likely review your vehicles, home and animals, but have you considered what should be done for your farm buildings?
Two Major Concerns!
To successfully winterize a farm building, two major areas of concern have to be managed.
Hazard 1: Collapse By Wind Or Weight Of Snow Or Ice:
Building collapse is usually the result of damage caused by wind or by the weight of ice and snow. The collapse caused by wind, snow, and ice is often accelerated due to the building not being structurally sound. An exception to this common scenario would be collapse caused by a tornado or hurricane force winds. These situations are always a challenge regarding farm structures.
THE BEST PROTECTION IS TO PROACTIVELY LIMIT THE POTENTIAL LOSS.
Check the building regularly for any signs of decay and for structural defects. Special attention should be paid to promptly remediate roof leaks. Unrepaired roof leaks can lead to decay of the roof and rafters, especially where they join with the wall. Also check for foundation heaving caused by frost. This condition can place stress on the frame.
Check the building’s frame for structural defects. Carefully inspect support posts and footings to ensure that they are sound. Look for any long splits in weight-bearing or support beams. Check for broken rafters and confirm that the ridge-beam is solid. Evaluate where the structure has settled and where the floors and roof structures are weak.
Pay special attention to any sign of insect damage and fungus growth in timbers. Carpenter ants, wood-boring beetles and termites can cause significant damage over a period of time. If there is evidence of insects, begin an extermination plan.
If a thorough inspection of the farm buildings identifies serious problems, it may be necessary to consult a competent contractor about any recommended repairs, shoring or replacement. It is also important to seriously evaluate any farm buildings’ use during your regular inspections. A collapsed building filled with expensive farm machinery or animals could be a devastating event.
Maintaining your farm buildings is a year-round process. Start now for long term success.
Hazard 2: Fire
The most important winterizing process for your buildings may be taking steps to prevent fire. Many farm buildings contain highly combustible materials such as wood, straw and hay, animal bedding material, and dust. All of these materials can lead to an accelerated and more intense fire if one starts. Below are items and issues to reviewor check:
The best practice is not to allow smoking in, around or near barns. In strategic locations, post prominent and visible signs banning smoking, and then strictly enforce the rule.
Keep the barns clean
The better the housekeeping, the more reduced a risk of fire becomes. Flammables should be stored outside of, and away from the barn. Keep the floors as clean as possible. Cleaning away cobwebs will reduce a major dust collector. While it may not always be possible, store hay in a separate building.
Barns with electricity pose many potential hazards.
- Light Bulbs: Want to reduce a major factor in barn fires? Take a look at the light bulbs in the barn. Are they protected by a wire cage or a heavy duty glass casing?
Light covers like these will greatly reduce the chance of a combustible material, or an animal, from coming into contact with a hot bulb. If the bulbs are unprotected, please consider taking steps to update your light fixtures.
- Electrical Wiring: All wiring should meet local building codes. Encasing electrical wire in metal conduits will reduce the risk of animals or rodents chewing it. Any frayed wiring should be replaced. It is also advisable to have “fuse” boxes replaced with “breaker” boxes.
- Outlets: Hopefully there are enough outlets so that the use of extension cords is minimal. Power strips are also a danger in a barn. A good rule of thumb is to power only one electrical appliance per outlet. Outlets should be easily accessed to reduce the need for extension cords, should be kept clean.
- Appliances: Disconnect electrical appliances when not in use. Be very careful with fans – especially in dairy and horse barns. Many fires in these buildings are the result of fans shorting out.
If there is a nearby water source, make certain that the fire department has unimpeded access to it. A working “dry hydrant” connected to a pond can greatly improve fire fighting capability. A dry hydrant is a non-pressurized, low-cost pipe system installed along the bank of a body of water. The top of the pipe extends above the ground next to a body of water and the bottom of the pipe extends down into the water. A minimum of two feet of water must be maintained over the bottom of the pipe to assure year-round water supply.
Horse barns and dairy barns can have fires with animals in them. Prevention is still the best plan. Be prepared for a barn fire:
- Keep aisles, stall doors, barn doors free of debris and equipment
- Have fire extinguishers mounted in the barn – especially by all doors and entrances – more is better
- Consider smoke alarms and heat detectors which will activate a siren outside of the barn
- Have a planned evacuation route for every stall in the barn. Make sure the employees and animal handlers are familiar with plan
- Remove horses to a secure paddock away from the barn
PREPARATION AND PREVENTION WILL MAKE YOUR FARM SAFER!
Acadia is pleased to share this material for the benefit of its customers. Please note, however, that nothing herein should be construed as either legal advice or the provision of professional consulting services. This material is for informational purposes only, and while reasonable care has been utilized in compiling this information, no warranty or representation is made as to accuracy or completeness. Recipients of this material must utilize their own individual professional judgment in implementing sound risk management practices and procedures.