This ongoing feature provides information on free resources accessible to first responder departments nationwide. This includes training, equipment, and funding opportunities that focus on rural and small to midsize communities.
Coordination and training can be critical in responding to emergency calls on farms and rural processing facilities. Agricultural industries carry a substantial safety risk compared to the nationwide average, with 5,816 work-related deaths occurring from 2003 to 2011, and an injury average 40% above the national rate (1). Many of these accidents occur in areas that are relatively inaccessible, and transport time may also be substantial. To address these concerns, a range of academic, regional government, and federal education programs have been made available to assist in promoting an effective, well-prepared response to agricultural emergencies.
All states maintain a regional division to oversee agricultural management in their area, and many of these divisions include online resources and in-person trainings for emergency responders. The USDA maintains a page providing quick access to the local Departments of Agriculture, as well as partnering agencies, including organizations for agricultural education. Many of these state departments host resources that are broadly applicable and free to access, such as Minnesota’s Fire Department Response to Ammonia Release, and South Dakota’s video series depicting wildland fire suppression. In addition to containing valuable regional information, this presents an opportunity to see some of the tactics and strategies being used in areas with a similar climate and land allocation.
University, Non-Profit, and Journal Resources
Many local universities, community colleges, and non-profit organizations provide free or low-cost training programs to first responder agencies to encourage specialty skills in agricultural safety. These are generally advertised on the organizations’ websites, and may also be featured in local news sources. Online resources are also available and include:
• Farm Rescue and EMS: A State by State Directory: Issued by the Department of Health and Human Services, this lists many of the farm rescue training programs offered by non-profit and University organizations, along with the programs’ websites and contact information.
• Farm Rescue: Responding to Emergencies in Agricultural Settings: Published by Purdue University, this covers fires, chemical exposure, equipment injuries and rescue, incidents with farm animals, and a range of other relevant topics.
• Agriculture Emergencies: A Primer for First Responders: Published by Biosecurity and Bioterror in 2009, this article covers types of large-scale emergencies that may arise, directives in handling the response, and a history of relevant incidents and outbreaks.
National Agricultural Safety Database
The National Agricultural Safety Database (NASD) was founded in 1993 through funding provided by National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). It includes interactive training, news, and a substantial library of resources for first responders and people living in agricultural areas on safety measures and research.
• Rural and Emergency Response – The Safety and Health Safety Net: This provides a history of EMS services in rural areas, an assessment of challenges, including funding and access, and future steps that may be taken to benefit rural programs.
• How to Respond to Farm Accidents: This citizen’s guide instructs victims and witnesses on the proper safety measures to take when collaborating with EMS providers following an accident. It also includes measures that may be taken on scene to reduce the risk of further injury in common farm accidents while waiting for help to arrive.
• Fire Safety: This extensive section covers fire safety and response in a wide range of topics, such as fuel safety, reducing the risk of fire in forested areas, safe handling and risk in agricultural chemicals, and improving fire resistance in farm buildings.
OSHA – Preventative Resources
The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) provides standards, training, education, and assistance to reduce the risk of workplace injuries and fatalities. Its agricultural standards cover minimum requirements from sanitation to equipment maintenance, and are applied nationally (though 25 states, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands have opted to adopt independent standards that meet or exceed OSHA requirements). OSHA offers a wealth of consumer educational information that may be implemented to lessen the risk of accidental injury and reduce the severity of injury progression prior to first responder intervention. Guides and publications include:
• The Susan Harwood Training Grant Resource Series: This sizable collection of materials was developed as part of a grant program to educate workers and employers about workplace hazards, their rights, and responsibilities. It includes more advanced “train the trainer” guides, as well as ready-to-distribute handouts in simple safety protocols such as guarding against heat stress.
• State Resources in Agricultural Safety: This directory features college, university, and government programs that focus on publications and research, including the massive list of guides offered by the Texas Department of Insurance (many of which are provided in English and Spanish).
• Hazards and Controls Overview: Developed by OSHA, this includes common agricultural hazards and links to prevention and safety.
1. OSHA, Agricultural Operations