Because tornadoes can be disastrous, homeowners, businesses and farmers — especially those with livestock — need to have an emergency action plan.

The National Weather Service has confirmed that tornadoes struck Augusta, Dinwiddie, Gloucester, Halifax and Rockbridge counties on April 16, destroying or damaging about 430 homes and businesses. Damage in Gloucester alone is estimated at more than $7.7 million, with 162 homes destroyed or damaged.

Two tornadoes caused an estimated $8.5 million in damage on April 8 in Pulaski County.

"Damage can be minimized in many cases by having a plan already in place," said Jimmy Maass, safety manager for Virginia Farm Bureau. "Advanced preparation is not just smart, but directly affects a farm’s profitability and long-term growth. Having a plan in place can save precious time when the minutes truly count."

(For an example of just how deadly and damaging tornadoes can be see http://southeastfarmpress.com/management/deadly-tornadoes-rip-through-north-carolina-farm-country).

Keep documented emergency escape routes and procedures for each building on your property. Be sure to identify procedures to be followed by the people who remain to handle critical operations before they evacuate.

Farm operators also should have procedures in place to account for all family and employees after an emergency evacuation, and keep a list of who will be responsible for reporting fires and other emergencies.

Maintain a contact list of those connected with the farm who should be notified during an emergency — from owners, family members and employees, to employees’ family members, suppliers and anyone else who is on the farm on a regular basis, Maass said.

Include local law enforcement, fire departments, gas and electric providers, hospitals and insurance companies. Have a contingency plan in place for livestock in case barns or dairy parlors are damaged or destroyed. Also designate a location for offsite storage of important documents and records.