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Here, Ian Berry, Associate Director of A-Plan Rural, advises on how best to protect farms and businesses from fire damage.
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Q. I am now selling the last of my 2021 crop and will be tidying up the crop storage buildings before the new harvest season begins. I have a 500ha farm growing a range of crops and have seen fairly frequent examples of fires affecting farms like mine over the years. I want to reduce the risk of fire for my farm and my business – what do you recommend from a practical and insurance point of view?
A. A typical farm faces multiple fire hazards – from arson (which unfortunately accounts for 40% of all farm fires) to flammable crops, igniting materials, machinery breakdowns and environmental threats. meteorological. At A-Plan Rural, 33% of our overall claims are related to fires.
It is important to think about measures to protect property, but forest fires also represent an increasing risk for crops as well as storage buildings, especially on farms.
According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), between 2009 and 2017, fire and rescue services attended nearly 260,000 forest fires and around 37,000ha of land was burnt.
Indeed, fires on topsoil (41%) were more severe forest fires than any other land cover type.
It goes without saying that all farms are at risk of fire, but especially arable farms in hot and dry conditions like late summer, which is the peak time for these incidents. Straw, hay and other crops are highly flammable and all it takes is a spark to ignite them.
Arable farm fires often occur in remote locations, such as barns or in the fields themselves, which means fire crews will take longer to arrive.
As always, prevention is better than cure, and the law requires farmers to conduct a thorough risk assessment to identify potential hazards and those at risk, and then implement mitigation measures. Top tips include:
- Keep flammable materials such as fertilizer, straw, and grain separate
- Store straw and hay in small piles (insurance policies often set a limit, eg £25,000/pile, and remove as soon as possible to reduce the risk of arson
- Keep doors locked, use CCTV, and ensure gasoline and other fuels are stored securely to deter arsonists
- Create firewalls – natural or man-made – to prevent fires from spreading if they occur
- Inspect, clean and maintain machinery before use – do not leave machinery unattended near flammable materials
- Make sure farm workers know what to do in the event of a fire: for example, know where the nearest water sources are in order to quickly direct fire services, as well as where and how to move livestock
- Check that firefighting equipment, such as fire extinguishers, is maintained and operational
- Clear workshops of waste, oily rags and other combustibles
- Ensure that hot work, such as welding and grinding, is done away from combustibles
- Consider where farm workers should smoke/throw cigarettes
- Maintain electrical inspections
- Inform third parties (such as holidaymakers staying at the farm) about fire safety and make them aware of the risks
Unfortunately, fires happen even on the best-rated and best-protected farms, so getting the right insurance is essential. This should cover buildings, crops and increased labor costs in the event of a fire.
Make sure the threat of fire to your farm business is taken seriously and know who to call if you need to make a claim.
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