RICHMOND—With nearly 10 named storms already this season, the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services urged farmers on Aug. 27 to prepare ahead of time for power outages, structural or crop damage, insurance claims and damage that can accompany a tropical storm or hurricane.
Long-range preparations can include purchasing or making rental agreements for special equipment, making adjustments to property and reviewing business arrangements. Short-range preparations should focus on immediate concerns such as turning off propane, moving livestock or equipment to safe places or updating phone numbers for emergency assistance.
Equipment needs can include a generator, fuel, a hand-operated fuel pump, fire extinguishers, first aid kits, flashlights and batteries, a weather radio and batteries, stored water and feed for humans and livestock, and a camera to document damage.
Hog and poultry farms and operations with greenhouses are especially vulnerable if electricity remains out for a lengthy period. Farmers who cannot purchase a generator should consider leasing or negotiating a rental arrangement for a back-up generator in advance. Be aware that some rental contracts are only for eight hours’ use per day.
Property preparations can include clearing debris from drainage ditches so water can run freely; checking power lines for clearance; pruning or removing trees that could fall on lines or buildings; and pounding in extra nails or tightening hurricane straps to prevent wind damage. Other precautions include clearing away all debris that could blow in high winds; securing farm signs; and photographing valuable items and storing the photos off site. Farmers and homeowners alike should store all important documents at least 2 feet off the floor.
A final long-range preventive measure is reviewing business affairs, including insurance policies, debt level and finances.
Farmers should develop an emergency plan for their families and employees and establish a meeting place where everyone can gather after a disaster. They also need to assign and prioritize preparation and recovery duties.
Short-range preparations include monitoring local weather reports; charging batteries on cell phones and cameras; checking generators and purchasing sufficient amounts of fuel; and checking feed inventory and ordering extra if needed.
Mark animals with an identifier so they can be returned if lost—ear tags, brands, paint markings on hoovesor coat, or clipped initials in the hair. Horse owners should plan for the possibility of evacuation and identify nearby facilities that are willing to take horses in an emergency. Find out what their requirements are for vaccinations or tests.
VDACS recommends pumping and storing at least a 36-hour supply of drinking water for humans and animals and topping off all gas, propane and other fuel tanks, including family vehicles. The department also recommends coordinating with neighbors beforehand to discuss what resources can be shared in the event of power outages or flooding.