In 1996, Joan and Matt Marti of Nehalem, Ore., were faced with a catastrophic flood. Residences were destroyed, 30 percent of the herd was lost, and all of the farm’s financial records were ruined. The land the farm sits on was damaged extensively and would take a full year to return to production due to 3 feet of silt residue left from the flooding.
“Could we have prevented the flood? Absolutely not,” says Joan Marti, co-owner of Marti Holsteins, Inc. But, since then, Marti says she has learned a lot about preparing for a crisis.
Have you ever considered what would happen if you were faced with a catastrophic event like this? While every disaster will present different challenges, there are steps you can take to better prepare your farm.
Think it through
Make a list of things that could happen. What would happen if your barn caught on fire and you lost all of your hay or lost the milking parlor? What if an employee was killed? What would you do if the electricity went out for a few hours or days, or if the milk truck couldn’t get there? What if a major feed or water source became contaminated? What about a flood, tornado or a foot-and-mouth disease outbreak?
Thinking through the worst-case scenario that could happen on your farm is the first step to prepare for a crisis. “Crisis preparedness is about what’s possible, not probable,” says Julie Smith, University of Vermont extension dairy specialist. “If you only prepare for the probable, you may be caught unprepared by the possible.”
The Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the toxic sludge flood from an aluminum plant in Hungary, and the crippling earthquake in Japan are just a few examples of crises that have happened in the past year. Somewhere in the crisis-planning process, someone might have said these particular situations could not happen or were unlikely to happen, says Smith. But then, they did happen.
While you can’t plan for every situation, you can pick two or three of the most-likely situations and two or three worst-case scenarios for your particular farm and plan for them. “Don’t forget about disability, divorce, deportation or death as potential crises. It’s common for people to think about a natural disaster as a potential crisis, but death and divorce can be just as disastrous,” reminds Smith.
Consider the after-effects
Once you’ve considered what could happen, you have to consider the consequences of such an event.