Editor’s note: The following article was written by Dean Ross, an agrosecurity consultant based in Michigan.
September 2011 is National Preparedness Month and it comes at a unique time for agriculture in the U.S. The year 2011 has been a particularly tough one for agricultural natural disasters. From the devastatingly cold and snowy winter that collapsed barns across the U.S., the springtime tornados in the Southern states and the yet to be calculated impacts of tropical storm Irene and the drought /wildfires in Texas, nature has given us more than our share of grief this year. But the underlying story here is that while U.S. agriculture will survive these setbacks, some individual farm and rural businesses may not.
While there is research underway to examinethe ability of farms and rural communities to recover following a disaster, it is still up to individual rural business owners and farmers to look out for themselves. Emergency planning experts suggest that it could be a minimum of 72 hours before outside help can reach those impacted by large scale disasters.
This required self-reliance fits well with the individualism that builtour rural communities.But with that individualism, comes a streak of stubbornness tickling the back of the mind with the thought, “Nothing like that has never happened here before” or “It can’t happen here”. Ask the rural communities in Texas, Vermont or Missouri if it can happen there. Planning for emergencies at the farm level is important to the future of each farm.
Rural communities should be resilient communities. And community resiliency is built on the resiliency ofindividuals and businesses in that community. Because the professional first responders will be overwhelmed by the impact of a large scale natural disaster, the community itself will need to self-mobilize in order to begin the recovery.
In other words, the recovery can only begin locally after most individuals and businesses in the community have met their own emergency needs. The quicker this occurs the quicker the community can stand itself back up.
Personal preparedness starts at home.
The first step is to assemble an emergency kit for you and your family to use. The kit should contain supplies and food that would be needed if the family shelters at home or evacuates for several days. In many cases, the food already on hand can serve as emergency rations. Potable water is also going to be high on the list of critical supplies, if you plan to shelter in place at home. Consideration also should be made for special-needs family members. Do you have a stash of infant formula, baby food or diapers, if it is required? Are there disabled or low mobility family members? Are prescriptions up to date? What about extra pet food and supplies?