With hurricane season about to begin, Delaware agricultural authorities are urging farmers and pet owners to plan ahead and prepare for weather emergencies.
Hurricane Preparedness Week runs from May 26 to June 1, with hurricane season beginning June 1.
“Preparing and acting early can save animals’ lives,” said Secretary of Agriculture Ed Kee. “The time to take action is now, before storms create disaster conditions.”
The Department of Agriculture’s Delaware Animal Response Program works with state emergency officials and animal welfare organizations to assist animal owners with preparation, sheltering in place and evacuation.
“Owners have a responsibility to care for all of their animals, and should be taking steps now to make sure they are safe,” said State Veterinarian Dr. Heather Hirst, whose Poultry and Animal Health section includes the DAR program. “Though we have been relatively lucky in recent years, we have still seen animals injured and even killed during storm situations. Preparedness is better than relying on luck.”
The Department of Agriculture recommends that animal owners take the following precautions:
Livestock and small flock owners
>> Check and secure all buildings and enclosures. Repair or secure loose boards, doors, window covers, metal sheeting, wire and equipment that could blow around in high winds.
>> Provide water and food. Make sure your animals have alternate water sources in case power is lost and pumps and automatic waterers are not working. Have enough food and water on hand for seven days. Move feed to higher ground to prevent mold contamination from flooding.
>> Mark animals. Identifiers for returning lost animals could include ear tags with farm name and phone numbers, brands, paint markings on hooves or coats, or clipped initials in hair coats. Leg bands can be used for back yard poultry.
>> Stock up on supplies. Make sure you have basic veterinary supplies on hand and that your livestock are current on vaccinations.
>> Study evacuation options. If you decide to evacuate your livestock, determine several locations that the animals could be taken and map out several routes to each location. Make arrangements in advance with owners to accept your animals, and be sure to contact them before taking the animals there. It is best to evacuate at the first recommendation to do so.
>> Choose indoor sheltering or outdoor enclosed areas. If you decide to confine or shelter indoors, consider the structure strength and how it will hold up during high winds and torrential rain. If you give your animals the option of moving outside of their barn during the storm, survey your property to find the best location, do not let animals become trapped in low-lying pens, give them enough space to move around to avoid blowing debris and make sure the areas are clear of overhead power lines or poles.
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The Delmarva Poultry Industry, Inc., recommends that commercial poultry growers take steps that include the following:
>> Check your back-up generator. Make sure you have fuel for several days, and that automatic starting systems are ready to go.
>> Check propane gas. Make sure you have enough gas, and arrange an early delivery if necessary.
>> Check feed inventory. Arrange for an early delivery if necessary.
>> Have a back-up communications plan. Make sure cell phones are fully charged in case land-line telephone service is lost.
>> Think long-term. Be prepared to keep birds for longer than normal if processing plants are unable to operate. Make plans for larger-than-normal carcass disposal if necessary.
>> Check with your poultry company or flock supervisor regularly during any emergency situation.
>> Make a disaster kit. Just like you have a kit for your family, your pets should have waterproof kits as well. Include medical records, vaccination history, medications and dosages, current photographs, veterinarian contact information, documentation of any behavior problems, alternate contact information, first-aid kit, leashes, collars, harnesses or muzzles with identification tags, a pet carrier, food and water bowls, litter pans, toys, blankets and food and water for at least seven days, with a can opener.
>> Update vaccinations. Make sure your pet is up-to-date before a storm event occurs.
>> Microchip your pet, and have the microchip identification number in your disaster kit.
>> Have an evacuation plan. Designated Delaware emergency shelters now offer housing for pets at or near human shelters. You should bring your pet disaster kit along, including food and water, and are encouraged to visit regularly and oversee day-to-day care for their pets. Owners should also have a list of other locations where they can evacuate with their pets, such as relatives, pet shelters or pet-friendly motels or hotels. Determine several routes to your local shelters before you leave.
Key tips are also available at http://dda.delaware.gov/storm_preparedness.shtml.
Other sources of information:
Hurricane Preparedness Week: http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/prepare/
Delaware Emergency Management Agency: http://dema.delaware.gov/
Federal Emergency Management Agency: http://www.fema.gov/