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Amy Rademaker
Amy Rademaker, Farm Safety Specialist Center for Rural Health and Farm Safety Carle Foundation Hospital

Mapping out farm safety
Emergency Action Tubes protect farmsteads, emergency responders

In 1991, Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana, Ill. recognized the need for education in agricultural safety and health. This came after the devastating loss of Clifford and Dean Roberts, father and son, who died in separate farming accidents. The Roberts family, in conjunction with Bernice and Zelma Holl, established the Roberts Memorial Fund to establish and support the center. Today, the center continues to promote agricultural health and safety to our rural neighbors.

My family has been farming since they arrived in the United States from Germany in 1846. As a sixth generation farmer, I know that farming is integral to all of our daily lives and that the average farm has valuable resources as well as hidden hazards.

When first responders, such as firefighters, have quick access to information that identifies the location of buildings, livestock, machinery and available sources of water on a farm, lives and property can be saved. The Center for Rural Health and Farm Safety at Carle Foundation Hospital has introduced the use of Emergency Action Tubes at several farms in east central Illinois to aide emergency responders when responding to calls.

Emergency Action Tubes are sealed plastic cylinders containing detailed maps of the farm with information identifying the location of buildings, grain bins, livestock, fences, fuel and chemical storage, power lines, electrical panels, water supply and septic systems. Our office manages the mapping process using a GPS software program developed by Penn State University to produce the maps.

Described as “indispensible” by county farm bureaus and fire protection districts, this service is offered at no-cost to eligible farmers in east central Illinois. The process takes a considerable amount of time and due diligence to produce thoroughly detailed maps. We record information based on interviews with farmers and touring all farms, requiring very little of the farmer’s time throughout the entire process, in order to sketch the layout and identify hazards for the mapping process.

Upon completion, the maps are reviewed with the farmer then the Emergency Action Tube is attached to a location near the electric meter on the farm and duplicates provided to the local fire protection district.

Recognition in a recent Associated Press article has resulted in organizations nationwide expressing interest in replicating this initiative in their communities. Since its launch in fall 2010, 15 Emergency Action Tubes have been completed and delivered. Our goal is to map 35 farms annually and act as a model for other rural health and safety outreach programs.

For more information, contact The Center for Rural Health and Farm Safety at (217) 383-4606 or visit

Recommendations for Accident Prevention

Develop an awareness of hazards on the farm and make a conscious effort to prepare for emergency situations including fires, vehicle accidents, electrical shocks from equipment and wires and adverse health effects from chemical exposures.

• Reduce your risk of injury and illness with preventive measures. Read and follow instructions in equipment operator’s manuals.

• Conduct routine inspections of your equipment to determine problems and potential failures that may contribute to or cause an accident.

• Conduct meetings with employees and family members to assess safety hazards and outline emergency procedures.

• Be especially alert to hazards that may affect children and the elderly.

• Minimize hazards by careful selection of products you buy, by providing good maintenance of tools, buildings, and equipment and establishing good housekeeping procedures.

• Provide rollover protective structures, protective enclosures, or protective frames as appropriate for farm tractors.

• Use seat belts while the tractor is in operation.

• Make sure guards for farm equipment are put back on after maintenance.

• Review material safety data sheets (MSDSs) and labels that come with chemical products.


Amy Rademaker, Farm Safety Specialist Center for Rural Health and Farm Safety Carle Foundation Hospital



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