This article appeared in the August 7, 2013 edition of the Ag Report.
Hurricane And Disaster Preparedness: Every Farm Needs A Plan
Wayne Kasacek, Bureau of Regulation and Inspection
Natural and manmade disasters that disrupt agriculture can significantly affect the residents of Connecticut—potentially resulting in threats to animal health and welfare, food safety, the economy, and even the availability of food.
Natural disasters of recent years have shown it is critical for agricultural producers to be prepared in an emergency. Two blizzards made January 2011 the snowiest January on record. Hurricane Irene devastated the East Coast from the Carolinas to northern New England in August 2011. In October that year, Storm Alfred caused 10 deaths and left 830,000 without power. Superstorm Sandy caused an estimated $65 billion in damage to the East Coast in October 2012. In February 2013, Blizzard Charlotte dumped upwards of 40 inches of snow on parts of Connecticut.
The damage from rains, storms, and tornados this past spring and summer, on top of February’s heavy snowfall, prompted Governor Dannel P. Malloy to authorize $5 million in PLANT Grants to help farms that suffered losses due to this year’s severe weather salvage the season by replanting crops, applying supplemental fertilizers and other treatments, and repairing buildings and equipment damaged in the storms.
As Agriculture Commissioner Steven K. Reviczky remarked when Governor Malloy announced the grants, “It has been an especially trying year for agricultural producers. Farmers are adept at dealing with the whims of Mother Nature and recovering from her changing moods, but it seems she’s been particularly temperamental this year. There are only so many times that even the toughest among us can get knocked down before needing a hand to get back up.”
We can only hope that the 2013 hurricane season will turn out to be a quiet one.
As many farmers have experienced, until a response can be mobilized, everyone is essentially on his or her own. Even during the response, resources are initially deployed to make electrical power safe, save lives, clear roads for emergency access, and keep critical infrastructure such as nursing homes and hospitals functioning.
Agricultural producers should take the time now to evaluate preparedness levels and take appropriate steps to mitigate natural hazards, which may include floods, winter storms, wind related hazards, droughts, wildfires, and earthquakes.
Managing risk is an essential part of any business. Agricultural operations are no exception. There are relatively simple steps that can be taken to protect you and your family, farm workers, livestock, and crops during times of an emergency.
The first steps are to determine what types of disasters could occur in your area (e.g., storm surge, wind damage, flooding, hazardous material spills on a highway or railroad, and long term electrical outages) and how they might affect your farm. A plan can then be drafted to address each potential hazard.
Here are some areas to consider when putting this plan together:
1. Review your insurance coverage with a professional to see what insurance is needed and how much.
2. What supplies are needed to protect your livestock?
Lumber and plywood to protect windows
Extra fuel for tractors and vehicles
A safe supply of feed
A generator capable of supplying essential power needs
3. Keep a list of emergency phone numbers.
4. Inventory your farm.
Livestock (species, number of animals)
Crops (acres, type)
Machinery and equipment (make, model number)
Hazardous substances (e.g., pesticides, fertilizers, fuels, medicines, other chemicals)
5. Know how to contact your suppliers in an emergency.
6. How will you provide feed and water to livestock and/or poultry during a prolonged emergency?
7. What services are critical to your operation and how will you replace those services if they are not available for an extended period?
8. Prepare your family and farm employees.
Keep them informed of the farm’s emergency plan and review it with them regularly
Identify shelter-in-place or evacuation locations
Establish a phone tree with contact information for all employees
There are online materials available to help agricultural operations with preparedness planning. Penn State University has published the ReadyAG©: Disaster and Defense Preparedness for Production Agriculture workbook, available at http://readyag.psu.edu/. It is an excellent tool developed to assist farmers become better prepared for any disaster.
USDA maintains an Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Recovery website, which can be accessed at http://tinyurl.com/USDAPrepare. This also is an excellent resource for the agricultural community.
With funding from a Farm Viability Grant from the Connecticut Department of Agriculture, the Connecticut Farm Bureau Association (CFBA), in cooperation with the Connecticut Agricultural Education Foundation, has developed a survey (available at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/8ZHBRNF) to produce a statewide voluntary database of shared resources that may be used to help Connecticut farmers during times of emergency. This database will be an important tool for the agricultural community during a disaster.
In addition to the database of shared resources, CFBA has posted an emergency preparedness page on their website at https://www.cfba.org/emergency.htm and has mailed emergency planning materials to Connecticut farmers. For more information (or if you have not yet received the packet of emergency planning materials), contact CFBA at 860-768-1100 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Proper planning will help your farm survive future disasters in whatever form they take. Do not wait to take action. Prepare now—the next disaster could strike at any time.