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Are You Ready for Anything?
Be prepared. That’s the Boy Scout motto, but everyone would be wise to follow it, especially farmers and ranchers. Anyone involved in agriculture understands better than the average person that things beyond your control sometimes happen. The key to riding out the storm (or any other emergency or disaster) is preparation.
When Robert Baden-Powell, Scouting founder, was asked what to be prepared for, he replied, “Why, for any old thing.” In his book, Scouting for Boys, he wrote that the motto means, “You are always in a state of readiness in mind and body to do your duty.” Good advice for Scouts and farmers alike.
The type of emergency you may face depends on where you live, among other factors. You may need to develop a plan for wildfires, hurricanes, blizzards, tornadoes, extreme drought, or floods. Think about the hazards you could face and whether you’d be able to hunker down and stay safe at home, or if evacuation would need to be part of the plan. Where would you go? How would you transport your animals? How long would you be able to stay at home with the supplies you have?
Save Yourself First
When riding on an airplane, the flight attendant instructs parents to secure their own oxygen masks before tending to their children. If we don’t take care of ourselves, we can’t take care of anyone else. This holds true in any emergency or disaster. The first step in making sure your farm is prepared is to make sure your family is safe and secure.
There are all kinds of prepper kits on the market for families, but you can easily put one together yourself. The Department of Homeland Security (ready.gov) suggests compiling water (1 gallon per person per day), nonperishable food, prescription medication, a battery-powered or hand-crank radio and weather radio, flashlight, extra batteries, first aid kit, whistle, garbage bags, cell phone with chargers and backup battery, and paper maps.
It’s also advisable to have over-the-counter medications, cash, important documents in a waterproof container or saved digitally on a thumb drive, extra gas and propane, blankets, a change of clothing, fire extinguisher, matches in a waterproof container, hygiene items, pet supplies and identification, and activities for children.
Think about your home and farm and what you would need if you had to stay put without electricity for several days. It’s a good idea to consider purchasing a generator, which could potentially run a well pump, space heater, refrigerator, and electric fence. If you have a fireplace, make sure it’s safe to use and keep a stockpile of firewood on hand. Consider other heat sources like propane-powered heaters designed for indoor use.
If you are faced with a power outage during winter, having supplies on hand to wrap pipes could keep them from bursting. When a storm is forecast, fill bathtubs with water for flushing toilets. Keep cell phones, flashlights, and other devices fully charged at all times.
Look After Livestock
The Department of Homeland Security also offers advice for livestock owners. Ideally, you would be able to stay on the farm and keep your livestock with you. If ordered to evacuate, though, you should have a plan in place for transporting livestock, including destinations that have food, water, veterinary care, and handling equipment available; primary and secondary routes; and vehicles, trailers, and drivers.
Make sure all animals have some form of identification, whether it’s a microchip, ear or leg tag, leg band, or tattoo. Bring proof of ownership and veterinary records. You’ll also need rope, halters, and medicines.
If you must evacuate and can’t take livestock with you, decide ahead of time whether animals will be moved into shelters or turned outside, and make sure they would have food, water, shelter, and bedding. If you aren’t home at the time of an emergency, designate a neighbor to tend to your livestock.
Learn to Prepare
Cornell University Cooperative Extension offers New York farmers a six-hour class on improving disaster preparedness, response, mitigation, and recovery. At the end, attendees receive a Farm Disaster Preparation Certificate and may be eligible for insurance discounts. Check with your local Extension office about programs in your area.
Penn State University Extension has prepared a ReadyAG workbook, which helps farm and ranch owners identify potential disasters, prioritize areas that need strengthening, and create an action plan specific to their operations. It’s full of tips, checklists, and additional resources for livestock and crop producers. Download a free PDF at extension.psu.edu/readyag-workbook.