Surviving storms on a farm

Gloria Hafemeister
Now Media Group


As spring and summer arrives, so do electrical storms and tornadoes.

Tom Wright and Tom Schwab, ski patrolmen and safety specialists, said being prepared for an emergency is important on the farm.

'The best plan for dealing with an emergency is prevention,' Schwab said.

When a farmer is planting corn and is nearly complete, he often ignores approaching storms. On a hot summer day when there are just a couple more rounds of hay to be chopped, a farmer will be tempted to remain in the field and finish the task when it begins to lightning and the storm nears.

'That's not a good idea,' Schwab said. 'The tractor and metal equipment will attract lightning and are actually like a lightning rod out in the open.'

Standing near a metal fence is also a dangerous situation because lightning can hit the fence at one end of the field and travel to the nearest grounding point, which may be the person standing next to it.

Regarding lightning victims, he said it is a myth that the person is charged and should not be touched. He said 70 percent of lightning victims survive.

Schwab also stressed the importance of prevention and advised following the 30-30 rule.

'The time between when you see lightning and hear thunder is important. If it is less than 30 seconds, head for safe shelter (not just a roof in a pasture, but a sturdy building). Wait until 30 minutes after the last thunder to return to the field.'

Only the cab of a tractor or vehicle will save someone from lightning injury. In an open tractor the risk is high of being struck.

As farms get bigger, Schwab said it is also important to make sure everyone knows where to go for safety if a storm or tornado strikes. Make sure there is a way of accounting for everyone, and talk about procedures beforehand.