Farm owners should first be aware of assets and liabilities when planning for disasters. For instance, a long farm access path through a wooded area poses many potential problems for an owner if an ice storm or other event occurs. Downed trees, flooding, or heavy ice (and later melting slush) may make transportation for feed, water, and animals difficult for some time. On the other hand, a farm generator, heavy equipment, and extra feed storage are all assets. As an owner, try to look closely at your farm and identify areas that will present problems should a disaster strike. If possible, correct the potential problem or, at least, plan for solutions.
Farm owners should remember to identify resources that neighbors may have and discuss future plans to use those resources should the need arise. An example would be a backhoe or a set of panels. Neighbors will do much better if they are able to pool their resources rather than “go it alone.” Check with your local Emergency Management office to find out more about the County Animal Response Team being started in your county.
Next, farm owners should get to work planning their individual response to the needs that might be encountered during an emergency situation. An organized way to approach things would be to group the needs into categories such as: shelter, rescue/medical, feed/water, and transportation. The response plans of both the county and state are organized the same way.
The shelter category includes existing barns and facilities and also those that may have to be constructed. Plans would include keeping shelters in good condition to keep them as storm-proof as possible and also planning for downed fences, power outages, and escaped or trapped animals. Access to extra panels or holding facilities is a must.
Before a storm hits, mark your animals with a unique identifier so they can be found quickly and returned to you if lost. Examples are ear tags that have the name of your farm and/or phone number, brands that specify to whom the animal belongs, paint markings on hooves or coat or clipping initials into hair. Once again, it is important to coordinate with your neighbors to ensure your identifier remains unique.
Another shelter issue to consider before an emergency hits would be to move stored feed to higher ground or to a more accessible place in case a flood hits or transportation is impossible. Also, if you have dairy cows or chicken houses that rely on electricity for milking or cooling, buy a generator that is large enough to handle the necessary power load or arrange to rent a generator from a local dealer.
Rescue/medical includes having a medical kit on hand to treat injuries until help arrives. Also ropes, trailers and panels should be kept accessible to help move or rescue any type of animal you have on your farm. Keep your veterinarian’s current emergency numbers on hand, but keep in mind that he may be out of commission. Also, have other numbers on hand, such as County Extension and County Emergency Management, in case of an emergency.
Feed and water may seem the most important but also remember some situations dictate shelter or rescue as the first need. For example, cattle standing in chest high flood-water have plenty of water to drink but is it safe? Moving them may become the first priority. Animals will need water on a daily basis and food within days. Plan for ways to provide water during winter storms which may bring freezing temperatures and power outages, and also hurricanes which can create contaminated water supplies. Burial guidelines can be referenced in mortality management.
Farm owners and operators are encouraged to consider measures that could be taken prior to an eminent emergency that could reduce the impact on the farm and the environment. Being prepared for the unexpected, whether it hits in the form of a hurricane this summer or a winter storm later this year, will give you peace of mind plus save you money and lives when a storm hits.