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Be prepared for tornadoes on the farm

Spring is traditionally the beginning of tornado season in much of the United States, although things may have gotten started early this year with two tornadoes touching down in eastern Iowa in January. 

An average of 1,000 tornadoes are reported across the country each year, resulting in 70 deaths, more than 1,500 injuries, and destruction of livestock and property, according to This website is funded by the Multi-State Partnership for Security in Agriculture and managed by the Center for Food Security and Public Health, part of Iowa State University's College of Veterinary Medicine. 

The site offers several severe weather information sheets for farmers, including the following tips:

Your family

  • Know the warning signs of a tornado and listen to local television or radio coverage or monitor the National Weather Service website during storms. Keep a battery-powered radio handy.
  • Have a family emergency plan including identifying an emergency shelter. The safest place is the interior of a basement or a cellar.
  • Keep an emergency kit with food, water, clothing, footwear, blankets, a first-aid kit, weather radio, and flashlight.
  • Know where to seek shelter in other locations around the farm if a storm comes up quickly.
  • Practice tornado drills so everyone knows what to do and where to go.
  • Do not stay in a mobile home during a tornado.
  • Do not try to outrun a tornado in your car or farm equipment. If you're on the road, lie flat in a ditch or culvert, preferably away from trees, and cover your head with your hands. Do not get under your vehicle or under a bridge.
  • READ MORE: Farm emergency preparedness


  • Keep an inventory of all animals and their location and make sure they have identification such as ear tags or tattoos.
  • Form an emergency plan that includes alternate power sources and handling equipment if livestock should need to be moved.
  • Remove objects that could become flying debris from livestock areas.
  • Remember animals may act differently before, during, and after a disaster.
  • If your family or home is at risk, tend to them before considering livestock.
  • If possible, bring animals into a barn well before the storm.
  • Never leave animals tied up or restrained outside. Open routes of escape for them if possible.
  • After a storm, survey buildings and examine animals; contact a vet if injuries occurred.
  • Remove debris that could harm livestock.
  • Make sure water and food have not been contaminated by chemicals before feeding.
  • Record animal deaths and check with local authorities for disposal instructions.
  • READ MORE: Emergency planning for livestock


  • Keep an emergency kit that contains food and water, medicine, a crate, a leash, and a photo of your pets.
  • Make sure all pets have identification such as a microchip and a tag with your contact information on it.
  • Bring pets indoors well before a storm. Never leave them tied up outside.
  • Keep pets leashed after a storm so they can readjust if scents and landmarks were altered.
  • READ MORE: Prepare for storms that push your farm to the limit

More tips

  • Check weather reports before planning work activities.
  • Make sure employees and family members have a way of communicating and are aware of the emergency plan.
  • Identify and remove or store potential hazards like unstable structures, equipment, and loose materials.
  • Avoid seeking shelter in long span buildings, which are generally supported only by outside walls.
  • If in a structure other than your home, get under something sturdy such as a workbench.
  • READ MORE: Agritourism severe weather planning

Download the website's free All Hazards booklet, a 100-page resource developed to make rural citizens aware of natural and man-made threats to their communities and commodities.

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