Thursday, December 29, 2011

Protecting the Farm from Zombies

I wrote this up for the local papers a few weeks back; but, just in case you missed it...

What a year for disasters. From the La Nina-induced cool winter to the severe storms that seemed to be a nightly occurrence in the spring to the intense heat during the crucial tasseling time for the corn crop, the weather has been rather unusual in this area, not to mention other parts of the world. Perhaps the only type of disaster not experienced in this area of the state this year has been an earthquake. Some readers, the author is confident, are now asking themselves, “But, Author, what about zombie invasions?” To that, the author would reply, “Good point. That kind of disaster, although completely fictional, is precisely the kind of disaster the agricultural community needs to be preparing for now, because preparation for that kind of disaster also helps prepare farmers for real dangers.”
The Extension Disaster Education Network (EDEN) strives to prepare farmers in agrosecurity and emergency management techniques. Although no specific mention of zombies tends to be made in their resources, talks with Purdue Extension Agrosecurity Team member and Warrick County ANR Extension Educator Amanda Bailey offers quite a few good tips that can help deal with disasters such as a zombie attack. The three main things that farmers can do to protect themselves now are to develop a flood management plan, to inform local fire authorities of chemical and highly combustible compounds on the farm, and to keep and communicate written emergency management plans for employees.
In the event of a zombie invasion, levies provide manmade earthen barriers that authorities can use as strategic points with which to engage zombie hordes. Unfortunately, the increased activity can weaken levies and create potential flooding hazards in our area. Therefore, farmers need to plan for the worst and establish areas where livestock, chemicals, and waste can remain safe in the event of a severe flood. Confined Animal Feeding Operations are already required to have liquid manure storage structures that can contain runoff from a 25-year, 24-hour flood. A twenty-five year flood has a 4% chance of occurring in any one year, so these farmers are relatively well-protected from contaminating crucial well water, as city water systems are likely to be shut off or unreliable in the event of a sustained zombie attack. Relocating animals may be necessary in the event of a major flood. The County Emergency Management Plan considers the need to relocate livestock in the event of a disaster situation. If you are unsure of how to coordinate such an effort on your farm, or want more information on the process, contact the Purdue Extension office or the Emergency Management Agency’s office (Terry Hedges in Gibson County at 386-9630). On-farm storage of pesticides, fertilizers, and other chemicals is required to be self-containing in the event of a leak, which also serves as a way to prevent runoff in a flood. However, on-farm chemicals need to be the main point of consideration in the event of a fire.
Everyone has heard the story a thousand times. A stray pack of zombies find an old farmhouse, chaos ensues, and any number of circumstances from a firefight to a gasoline-doused, flaming undead creature starts an uncontrollable blaze. The very real hazard on the farm is that this kind of blaze can start in the proximity of combustible chemicals or gasoline tanks. Every farmer needs to work with his or her local fire station to identify areas on the farm where combustible or hazardous chemicals are stored, to both extinguish a fire more expediently, as well as protect the farmer and firefighters in the process. The fire station should have a record of your farm’s areas of concern. Invite the fire department to the farm for a safety inspection to identify and reduce the number of hazardous areas.
Now, the farmer has accomplished the above steps and feels more confident of damage mitigation in the event of a zombie apocalypse. Meanwhile, the farmer’s employees have no knowledge of his efforts and are no more prepared for mindless shambling walkers than before. For this reason, the farmer needs to commit to writing a detailed and farm-specific emergency management plan and store the plan with his farm records. He or she also must ensure that employees read the plan and know of its location at all times. Not only does a written plan provide guidance, it also serves as an operating standard with which to hold and evaluate employees. After all, the worst action a farmer can take in the event of a zombie invasion is to attempt to hire the zombies and put them to work. Ironically and inevitably, the zombie employee fails to show consideration for simple farm safety, and farm emergencies increase as a result.
Although the threat of a zombie attack is non-existent, fires, floods, and other disasters are very real, and some climatologists claim weather-related extreme events are on the rise. In the best outcome, emergency planning measures are implemented but never used. In the most dire circumstances, those measures can prevent an extreme economic loss, or even the loss of life itself.

Have a great year's end!

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