“You may have an eight-passenger van, but if you have 100 pickers, it would take many trips to move them out, for example.”
Documents are important and should be available in the event of an emergency, so they can be grabbed when evacuating.
Winery or vineyard owners and orchardists alike need to consider their responsibilities to their staff and to visitors to the operation, she adds. Water sources are another vital consideration. For one thing, growers need to consider whether they rely on power or wifi to control their irrigation, and if so, they need to have an alternative ready as a backup. It’s helpful to have a cistern full of water to help with local firefighting, if your main source of water is vulnerable, she points out.
Location of water sources is also valuable information for fire fighting forces. A farm map should be completed that highlights where emergency equipment is located, where there are water sources and where the shut-offs are.
Above all, a list of contact information should be completed for each property. The Regional District of Okanagan- Similkameen is keen to link to your property identification so that sort of information is already in the system in the event of an emergency. All producers should read the fire- smart sections of the guide and work on complying with recommendations regarding fire-proofing the operation, she advises.
The guide is divided into three sections: before, during and after a wildfire, beginning with help to create a wildfire preparedness plan. The idea is to help in decision-making prior to the emergency, when considering options can be done without duress. The plan also helps inform
neighbours, staff and first responders so they can take the best steps to help in an emergency.
After the emergency, it demonstrates to insurance providers that you have done your ‘due diligence’ to prevent losses.
A map of your operation should include site features such as fences, gates, cattle guards, structures, public parking and access, wells, tanks and pumps, reservoirs, irrigation systems, water and gas lines; where surface water is that might be suitable for fire suppression; public reservoirs and water sources which could be available;
British Columbia FRUIT GROWER • Summer 2018 13 Harmony Bjarnason
infrastructure for perennial crop production such as trellis systems; access points to adjacent Crown land; and hazardous areas on the property such as fuel and chemical storage. An inventory of equipment could be helpful in dealing with an emergency. To mitigate the risk of wildfire, the guide advises reducing combustible materials such as dry grasses, packaging and pallets, woodpiles, propane and fuel tanks around structures and limbing trees.
Other measures include increasing the use of fire-resistant building materials, particularly on roofs. Growers should also understand what their insurance policy covers and what is excluded, including consideration of what stage of growth the crop is and whether it is covered by insurance at that point. Any changes to policies must be done prior to an emergency. Photo documentation is also
recommended prior to renewal of insurance policies.
Power outages are likely during an emergency and producers should take steps to have backup electricity options available if it is critical for irrigation, refrigeration, processing, water pumping etc.
Each regional district in the Okanagan has a website to consult in the event of an emergency, both for up- to-date information and for background and recommendations to prevent wildfire or deal with it.
There’s also a checklist for evacuation of family, staff and visitors and it’s advised that you prepare a ‘grab and go’ kit with blankets, building keys, critical documents, employee records and other items related to a farm evacuation; as well as a personal ‘grab and go’ kit with water, medications etc. in it. If employees are a consideration, it’s important that everyone know their role in the event of an emergency and that there be a checklist for everyone with a key role in an orderly evacuation, including maps of routes and exits and where employees or visitors may be located on the farm.
A final sweep of the evacuated operation is important, and emergency shut-offs for utilities must be taken care of.
Communications are also critical, both with family, employees and visitors, and with authorities who may be charged with helping in the organization of an evacuation or fire fighting.
Work is still underway to resolve some of the issues that came up as a result of last year’s wildfires in the Cariboo region that affected ranchers and other farmers.
The new guide is available at: https://www.bcagclimateaction.ca/regi
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