Preventing barn roofs from collapse

The heavy, wet snow and higher than normal ice loads this year, combined with aging structures, creates the perfect combination for barn roofs to collapse, says Adrienne Herron, livestock welfare technology transfer specialist with Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development.

“From hogs to horses, all areas of livestock production can be affected by barn collapses.”

Listed are some tips for prevention and ideas on how to manage the situation for human safety and animal well-being if the unthinkable happens.

• Monitor the snow pack on your barn roof and the potential snowfall that is expected in the weather forecast. Did you know that a 1,600-square-foot roof can have as much as eight tons of snow on it when packed to a depth of one foot? If the snow on a roof gets rained on the weight could easily double. Roofs that have a low pitch or are older are at a greater risk of collapse.

• Consult a structural engineer regarding the soundness of your building. Also, review the recommended weight loads for your building, if you have them available.

• Remove the snow from your barn roof if the weight or volume of snow is getting too high or heavy. If you are considering removing the snow from your barn roof remember to use property safety techniques. Removing snow can be very physically demanding as well as dangerous due to falls and slippery conditions. Remember that not all the snow needs to be removed and not to damage the roof when removing the snow.

No producer wants to deal with a barn collapse, but should one occur, here are some tips for ensuring the safety of producers, employees and emergency responders:

• Call 9-1-1. Emergency responders are trained to deal with dangerous situations. Do not enter the structure until help arrives.

• Account for all of the people who may have been inside the structure.

• If you are trapped in a collapsed barn, do not attempt to escape until help arrives. Your efforts to escape may cause further collapse.

• If possible, provide emergency responders with a floor plan or drawing with any potential dangers or hazards they may come across (utilities, manure pits, etc.)

• Turn off any utilities (natural gas, propane, electricity, water) going to the barn if they can be accessed outside of the structure.

• Don’t try to move any of the fallen structure as this may cause further collapse. There may be areas inside the collapsed structure where people or animals are trapped but safe. Waiting for emergency responders will ensure they are rescued safely.

Here are some points to consider when managing the well-being of the animals that may be involved in a barn collapse:

• Call a veterinarian or other producers familiar with handling the species of animals in your barn. Emergency responders will be familiar with dangerous situations but may not have sufficient experience in handling animals in dangerous situations.

• Call your industry organization, Alberta Farm Animal Care ALERT line1-800-506-2273, friends and fellow producers. Once animals have been removed from the collapsed barn you will need to find suitable housing for them. This is especially crucial in winter months for animals that are not acclimatized to the cold weather.

• Once animals are removed from the collapsed barn keep a close eye on them for stress related responses such as dehydration, loss of appetite, and other injuries that may not be immediately visible.

• Ensure that animals that are identified as too ill or injured to survive are humanely euthanized immediately and disposed of according to provincial regulations.