Fire is among the largest and most costly causes of loss on farms, ranches and commercial agribusinesses in the U.S. As the nation’s number-one farm insurer1, that makes fire prevention and protecting customers from fire losses one of our top priorities at Nationwide.
October is National Fire Prevention Month. The observation started in 1925 — one year before Nationwide was born — via a proclamation by President Calvin Coolidge. It’s always been held in October, the month when 54 years earlier, the Great Chicago Fire killed 300 people and destroyed more than 17,000 buildings in the city.
The Chicago fire could have been prevented had the right fire prevention protocols been in place. Growing the awareness of fire prevention tools and protocols — ones that have evolved and advanced over the years — is the inspiration behind October’s annual recognition of the importance of fire prevention and safety. And it’s something close to our hearts at Nationwide. We’re committed to leading the way in preventing farm, ranch and agribusiness fires and introducing new tools to make that happen.
The cost of fires in agriculture
Farm fires cause more than $100 million in losses and damage to crops, animals, buildings and other property every year. Farm buildings, machinery, rangeland and anywhere combustible materials like grain and baled hay are stored have enhanced fire risk, according to Nationwide Risk Management Consultant, agronomist and Iowa farmer Derek Hommer.
“Prevention is the overarching goal. Fire hazards are all around us in agriculture. That’s why we’re so focused on protecting our customers and their valuable assets,” said Hommer, also a member of the Milo, Iowa, city fire department and member of the city’s Emergency 911 Board. “A strong fire safety plan can help prevent the devastating losses that fire can leave in its path, no matter its cause.”
Common sources of fires on farms, ranches and ag businesses
Some of the biggest fire hazards include:
- Baled hay and forage storage
- Machinery and electrical components
- Buildings and barns
- Fuel and chemical storage
- Grain storage and equipment
“A big part of fire prevention is making sure everyone in your ag business knows how and where fires are likely to start,” Hommer said. “That means inspecting things like machinery and equipment regularly. Ensure you not only have the right plan in place but have everyone prepared to take quick action to prevent or suppress a fire.”
Plan for fire prevention and safety
Strong fire prevention requires year-round attention and a proactive approach to preventative action including:
- Emergency and evacuation planning
- An inventory of combustible materials and where they’re stored
- Regular inspections of buildings, machinery and any other potential fire sources, including equipment like grain dryers that require heat sources and can be enhanced fire risks
- Fire safety training and checklists for farm workers and other workplace employees
- A plan with the local fire department to ensure the right water supplies and other critical fire safety resources are available
- Adequate fire detection and suppression tools are in place, including smoke detectors, fire extinguishers and other sensors and safety tools
Keep up with advancing fire prevention technology
New tools can help you stay ahead of conditions that contribute to the development of a fire. On top of smoke and heat detectors, thermal imaging systems, like those from Nationwide partner Teledyne FLIR, can show if machinery components are operating at higher-than-normal temperatures and posing as potential fire starters. Similarly, electrical monitoring systems like PrevTech can help you detect electrical faults and anomalies, overheating of electrical panels and potential machinery breakdowns—further reducing your risk of fire.
Having the right insurance coverage is a must
Regardless of where it hits on your operation, any fire can be costly. That’s why it’s important to work with your local Nationwide agent to ensure you have the right insurance and fire prevention strategies and tools in place.
 Source: A.M Best Market Share Report 2022.