Famous last words, as we saw last year, with the incredible flooding in the normally dry areas of southwest Saskatchewan and even up into Yorkton area. Catastrophic flooding which destroyed rail lines, highways and washed away valuable farmland and pastures. Homes which have never seen flood waters all of asudden were not just waterfront but water-immersed properties. Fires, floods, tornados, blizzards, ice storms, drought and other natural disasters can seemingly be predicted. That we base many of those predictions on only 100 or so years of record keeping, and on the best guesses of science doesn’t dissuade people from believing, “That NEVER happens HERE!”
Never is a long time. Never is one of those situations that should never be banked on. Who would have thought in January 49 of 50 states in the U.S. would have snow on the same day, and the lone holdout, Florida, had their snow two days before?
This winter many communities known for their winter and mountain sports have seen flooding, ice storms and other weather oddities. It is one thing for a town or a tourist destination to be prepared for the unexpected, but it can be another thing entirely for a producer with livestock or who lives some distance from town to be prepared.
My husband went through two years of ag diploma at our kitchen table, the only thing I didn’t do was write exams and get the diploma. I know for producers the bottom line is always the big question — how much does it cost me to do (whatever)? I don’t know your operation but I can guess you do pretty well. You know how much it would cost to replace infrastructure, equipment, animals and effort. But do you know how much it would cost in comparison to the time invested in being prepared? I would think 10:1 would be a fair ratio — a pound of prevention for an ounce of cure.
The biggest cost in preparedness is time and effort — do you have the time to sit down and have a plan with your family? The measure in Canada and the U.S. is to plan for 72 hours without essential services like power or outside assistance. In other more remote areas you should be aware that up to five days without assistance is your measure. If you have not sat down with your family and your business partners, even your neighbours, to discuss a plan perhaps that should be the first step. There are some great online resources, which will be listed at the end of this article for you to access.
Coming from an emergency services and preparedness background I see things a bit differently than some folks who are looking purely at their usual annual plans and forecasts. There are basic kits for families, but farmers need something a bit more robust. And for producers who don’t have livestock, but perhaps have hobby animals or pets, don’t skip the animal parts! Even if you live “close” to town you can still be isolated in a storm or other natural disaster.
What to have ready — and while it may seem obvious — this is as practical as it can be: generator with fuel and oil (tested so that you know it runs and more than one person knows how to start it); stored water (in containers that can be reached by all family members), medications, including prescriptions, for everyone including pets and livestock, food that is non-perishable, cleaning supplies, school and entertainment (do you want to be snowed in with children and have nothing for them to do but ask you what they can do next?!), storm radio, am/fm radio, charger for phones and most importantly a plan!
Watch the weather, on both sides of the border, there are some great sites that show excellent radar maps for Canada and the U.S. With all of our “connectedness” we shouldn’t be surprised by weather except in the most extreme conditions such as a tornado or flash flood.
Make sure your family and staff know the safety plan for the farm. Do you know where the electrical and gas shutoffs are? Is there an all-weather access for emergency services? Who are you checking in with so folks know you are safe? What is the interval before they call for help?
By doing some research while sipping a morning or evening coffee, and sitting down for an hour during the day, your family can make a plan that could reduce the impact a severe incident could have on your farm. Not all disasters are natural — a train derailment or a fire for example — but being prepared is more universal. If you factor in the cost of your time to be prepared, to look at some sites, to actually write down a plan and put together your survival
You don’t have to even leave the farm sometimes to find exceptional, emergency situations you’ve never seen before.
storage tubs you’ll find that it is significantly less than the time, and physical and emotional cost of rebuilding after finding yourself unprepared.
There are many factors to consider when creating a plan depending on the area you live in — are you prone to floods? Do you have limited road access? Are you physically able to perform the tasks needed if stranded for a time? Do you understand the risks of your location? I’m pretty confident that in Australia they did not count on their flooding covering an area the size of Texas. Disasters can strike anywhere — an earthquake in Indiana or Ottawa — but if we work at being prepared we will be better able to handle what comes.
If you have specific questions, feel free to email me and we can address them further in this column for the benefit of all. (Also this website has some good information as well: http://72hours.org/)