Be Prepared: In the Country
Farmers and other rural people are generally well equipped to cope in an emergency. Although there is a tendency to be more self-reliant with water and have good food, fuel and equipment available to help get through, farmers still need to plan for the unusual circumstances an emergency can bring.
Most importantly, family, staff and homes need to be safe. You should also have continuity plans for your business. Involve staff in this process so they understand what is needed.
The Southland Rural Support Trust assists rural individuals and their families to get back on their feet following challenging circumstances such as financial, personal or climatic adverse events. The Trust is part of a nation-wide network which is linked into local rural networks, as well as Civil Defence, Work and Income, and rural professionals. Services are free and confidential.
Plan for Risks
- Identify all the various risks (including flooding, slips, fallen trees, power cuts, and severed transport links) for all parts of your property in various emergencies (flood, storm, earthquake) and plan how to deal with them. Some contingency planning may need to take place with neighbours.
- Plan alternative access routes to and from farms in case of road/bridge closures.
- In an emergency, family and staff may be out on the property undertaking tasks including securing stock and repairing fences, which can put them at risk. Discuss and establish what "reasonable risks" are before venturing out. They need to know evacuation procedures, meeting points and how to stay in contact or report in regularly.
- Farm houses in low-lying coastal areas may be at risk of high seas or tsunami, or on the river flats at risk from flooding. Plan alert and evacuation procedures and ensure occupants know what to do.
Farmed animals occupy almost 50 per cent of our land mass and are particularly at risk in major adverse events. With 42 per cent of merchandise exports derived from animal products, our economy shares this vulnerability.
- Plan for stock needs in an emergency. This may mean moving stock to higher or drier ground, opening gates so stock can move out when they need to, and feeding out.
- Ensure fertilisers and chemicals are securely stored – so they don’t fall in an earthquake or can contaminate waterways in a flood. Know how you will safely carry out a clean-up after a spill.
- Make sure water supplies can be secure from contamination, e.g. disconnect spouting to rainwater tanks and conserve water; secure from potential floods, slips.
- Plan ahead for unusual equipment needs if an emergency is pending, e.g. heavy rain/snow forecast check battery and alternative power/heating supplies.
- It can be the small things that catch you out. Remember cordless phones don’t work when the power is off, so have at least one ordinary, non-powered phone ready to plug in.
- Cellphones can be effective in an emergency if transmission towers have not been damaged but your cell phones will need to be recharged sooner or later so it pays not to rely on them – texting uses less battery life than a phone call and helps reduce the load on the cellphone system.
- Modern wastewater treatment systems need electricity to run properly. Without an alternative power supply, manual disposal methods will be needed.
- Many rural properties have mains pressure domestic water systems relying on power; even solar water heating relies on electricity to run the small pump that circulates the water. You will need access to alternatives.
- Keep the barbecue or gas hob cylinder topped up or have a full backup ready to use for cooking in a power outage.
- Equip yourself with a small portable generator – these come in various sizes are not expensive. They are handy for various jobs around the farm and can be useful in a power outage for things like keeping a refrigerator going.