As I prepare this column, we were faced with the possible arrival of Hurricane Dolly, so I thought I might share some tips for disaster recovery.

Disaster recovery can be as dangerous as the disaster itself, especially if no disaster preparedness plan was implemented.

This is especially true on farms and ranches, where inherent farm hazards such as machinery and equipment, livestock, and agriculture chemicals are displaced and co-mingle.

This puts all emergency response personnel, farm workers and family members, and livestock in danger. First responders should recognize the hazards that exist and proceed with caution.

Check Utilities

If you were unable to disable electric power before the disaster, look carefully for signs of damage to electrical components. Contact your electric utility company if you suspect damage, and ask for advice on how to determine if your electric system is safe to turn back on.

Never try to turn the electricity back on in areas that have been flooded before having the system checked.

Depending on the extent of damage, gas lines could also sustain significant damage. Have the gas utility check the system for leaks before continuing service.

Inventory, Inventory, Inventory

Following a disaster, agriculture producers should account for all livestock, fuels, chemicals, machinery and equipment. This list should be compared to the inventory prepared prior to the incident. Any lost livestock should be noted, and any hazardous materials such as fuels, pesticides, fertilizers or other chemicals that have leaked should be reported to emergency response personnel.

Check machinery and equipment for damage. Take photographs of all damage for insurance or emergency assistance purposes.

Care for the Animals

As with humans, the aftermath of disasters pose significant safety and health problems to livestock. Agriculture producers can minimize the safety risk to livestock in the following ways:

1. Gather and dispose of trash, limbs, wire, and damaged equipment that could harm livestock. Clear and repair damaged fences.

2. Make sure livestock have plenty of water and food that have not been contaminated by pollutants. In some cases, it is necessary to truck in water and food, or to remove livestock from contaminated areas.

3. Immediately dispose of dead carcasses. Rendering plants will process some dead animals. Those not processed should be buried away from water bodies at least 3 to 4 feet deep and covered with quick-lime to accelerate decomposition.

4. Observe livestock for signs of infectious disease such as pneumonia or foot rot. All animals that die immediately following a disaster should be necropsied by a veterinarian.

5. Spray livestock with insect repellent in case of floods to protect against mosquitoes that may carry disease.

Farm Disaster Assistance

Agriculture producers do not have to face a disaster alone. If a farm or ranch has suffered a loss due to disaster, it may be eligible for assistance under one or more of the Farm Service Agency programs.

Contact your local Farm Service Agency for more information about these programs.

Jeffrey Stapper is the Agricultural and Natural Resources Agent for Nueces County. Readers may contact him at (361) 767-5217.