Resources are available from the Dairy Checkoff to help you deal with media interviews. In a crisis, someone may even be available from your local dairy promotion board to help you field media questions while you deal with the situation. (A list of state and regional organizations and contacts are available at: http://tinyurl.com/3jt58hp).
Handling media interviews should be included in any crisis preparation.
Where in the business cycle are you
In your crisis planning, have a clear picture in your mind of what your business goals are, both short-term and long-term.
Responses in any disaster should be informed by these goals, says Smith. Decisions made during a crisis situation cannot be reversed, and some decisions make it hard to go back.
Put a plan in place
Now that you’ve identified what the potential crisis or crises are, what and who may be impacted, and potential catalysts to the crisis, develop a plan to follow should a disaster strike.
Once the plan is created, it needs to be reviewed and exercised at least once a year. It does not have to be an elaborate exercise, says Mary Lou Peter, extension communication specialist with Kansas State University. But you should ask questions about who is going to execute certain tasks.
“When disaster strikes, it won’t be the plan that saves lives and money, it will be the thought process and experience gained developing the plan,” says Peter.
Resources are available to help you create a disaster plan specific to your operation. See the “Library of resources” sidebar on this page for more information.
Invite emergency personnel to the farm
Invite local and county emergency personnel out to your farm for training exercises, recommends Steve Cain, Extension Disaster Education Network Homeland Security Project Director.
For instance, fire-fighters and emergency personnel may not be familiar with farms. They might not know the sensitive areas on the farm or how lock-ups or gates work. Giving emergency personnel familiarity with the layout of your farm is critical if a disaster ever happens, says Cain.
It is a good idea to have an emergency lock box on farm with a map inside specifically for the fire department. The more information you provide up front to the emergency responders, the better, notes Cain.
In the event of an emergency, a map of the facility can help emergency-service personnel identify hazardous areas, such as fuel storage, chemical and pesticide storage or electrical control panels. A map can also help identify the location of supplies, feed, water, utilities, receiving and load-out areas.
It can be very helpful to know where the chemicals are. If the building that houses your chemicals is on fire, the fire-fighters need to know that so they can decide if it is better to just let the fire burn. If they try to put a chemical fire out, it may become a bigger cost and liability to the farm if the chemicals run into a creek. The environmental cost down the road could outweigh the cost of letting the barn burn, notes Cain.