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What if your farm is in Sandy's path?

If your farm is in or near the path of Hurricane Sandy as it makes its way aground, it's likely to make life tough for the next few days, especially if you're not prepared.

The good news is that even if you just have a few hours before the storm brings heavy rain and high winds to your farm, you can still take a few steps to prevent major damage to your farm, according to a report from the Cornell University Cooperative Extension Disaster Education Network.

"Long-range preparations can include purchasing or making rental agreements for special equipment, making adjustments to property, and reviewing business arrangements. Short-range preparations should focus on immediate concerns such as turning off propane, moving livestock or equipment to safe places, or updating phone numbers for emergency assistance," according to a Monday report. "Equipment needs may include a generator, fuel, a hand fuel pump, fire extinguishers, first aid kits, a flashlight and batteries, NOAA weather radio and batteries, stored water and feed for humans and livestock, and a camera to document damage."

But, it's more than just getting together the right equipment and supplies. Also, be ready to make sure the land around you is ready for the torrents of water and high winds that are likely in an event like Hurricane Sandy, already dubbed the "Frankenstorm."

"Property preparations can include clearing debris from drainage ditches so water can run freely; checking power lines for clearance, and pruning or removing trees that could fall on lines; surveying buildings for limbs or trees close to buildings; and pounding in extra nails or tightening hurricane straps to prevent wind damage," according to the Cornell report. "Other precautions include clearing away all debris that could blow in high winds, securing farm signs, and photographing valuable items and storing the pictures off-site."

Record keeping is just as important. That's not just taking your files to a safe, secure place; it's just as important to document any damage that your farm incurs, and make sure that you can take care of your farm and family even if property damage is major.

"Photos of agricultural losses are very helpful to the USDA, especially with their livestock indemnity programs," the Cornell report shows. "Farmers and home owners alike should store all business records above flood level, which is generally at least 2 feet off the floor.

"A final long-range preventive measure is reviewing business affairs, including insurance policies, debt level, and finances. Farmers need to ensure they have adequate insurance coverage for homes, vehicles, farm buildings and structures, crops, and flood damage. Finally, farmers should develop an emergency plan for their families and their farm workers and should establish a meeting place where everyone can gather after a disaster. They also need to assign and prioritize preparation and recovery duties."

In addition to stockpiling supplies like fuel, a generator, first aid kits, flashlights, batteries, water, food and feed for livestock, Cornell specialists recommend the following preparations for short-range issues stemming from a storm like Hurricane Sandy:

  • Monitoring local weather reports for up-to-the-minute information on the storm.

  • Charging batteries on cell phones and cameras.

  • Determining check-in points for family members and workers.

  • Storing or securing items or equipment that may blow away or blow into structures, including lawn furniture and ornaments.

  • Checking generators to be sure they are in good working order and purchasing sufficient amounts of fuel to operate them.

  • Checking feed inventory and ordering extra if needed.

  • Moving poultry and livestock to higher ground if possible and sheltering them in securely battened barns, houses, or tightly-fenced areas.

  • Planning for the possibility of evacuation and identifying horse facilities in nearby vicinities that are willing to take horses in an emergency. Find out what their requirements are for vaccinations or tests such as the Coggins Test. Have a system for permanently identifying each horse with its name, your name, and a phone number.

  • Turning off the propane supply at tanks and securing tanks in the event of flooding to prevent them from floating away.

  • Moving equipment to the highest, open ground possible away from trees or buildings.

  • Pumping and storing adequate supplies of drinking water for humans and animals in the case of power outages.  Recommendations are for a minimum 36-hour reserve.

  • Topping off all gas, propane, and other fuel tanks, including the family vehicles.

  • Marking animals with an identifier so they can be returned to you if lost. This can include ear tags with name of farm and/or phone numbers, brands, paint markings on hooves or coat, or clipped initials in the hair.

  • Moving feed to higher ground or to a more accessible place in case of flooding or transportation problems.

  • Checking the security of roofing materials, siding, and windows and doors in barns and poultry houses to make sure they will not blow off or blow open in strong winds.

  • Coordinating with neighbors beforehand to discuss what resources can be shared in the event of power outages or flooding.

  • Making a list of important phone numbers ahead of time in order to make calls following a storm. Potential numbers to include are the local emergency management office, county Extension agent, insurance agent, county Farm Service Agency, and private veterinarian. Click here for local emergency offices.

"Being prepared for storms and hurricanes could help farmers limit their losses, but preparation needs to begin now, before Hurricane Sandy hits upstate New York," the report concludes.

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