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Editor's Notebook: Create a Plan Before Disaster Strikes

08:53AM Sep 01, 2008

Hurricane season in South Texas keeps you on your toes, but the advantage is that it also serves as a reminder of the need to have a plan of action if and when disaster or extreme weather strikes.

If you can really label it an advantage, that is—with hurricanes, you get several days to prepare. (As we go to press, Hurricane Ike is approaching.) With other natural disasters such as flooding, tornadoes, blizzards and wildfires, you will not have much time to get ready. While the sun is shining and the weather is calm, take the time to put a disaster plan in place.

For starters, how will you communicate with your employees, family members and others in the event you lose electricity, phone service or cell phone service? Will you have a grapevine of direct contacts or one central contact to help spread information?

The Department of Homeland Security's Ready Business Web site ( says to start by assessing how your operation or business functions, both internally and externally, to determine which staff, materials, procedures and equipment are absolutely necessary to keep your business going.

Review your farm's process flow chart. If you don't have one, create one. This identifies who is responsible for what and gives those providing backup an idea of what to do. Identify operations critical to survival and recovery. Include emergency payroll, expedited financial decision-making and accounting systems to track and document costs in the event of a disaster.

Establish procedures for succession of management. Include at least one person who is not at company headquarters, if applicable.

You can't move cattle or get out of harm's way if equipment is not working as it should. Make sure trailers are in good condition and that you have a week's supply of hay and water on hand.

Think about these things before your adrenaline starts pumping. Always have plan B or C ready in case the unforeseen happens. 

Kim Watson, Editor, writes from San Antonio, Texas