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New guide helps Alberta poultry producers prepare for disaster

Farm-specific plan can boost security, mitigate effects of emergency

Posted: February 6, 2014

Photo credit: Alberta Egg Producers

Barns collapsing under the weight of heavy snow. Electrical power zapped by storms. Floods or water supplies threatened by drought.

Alberta poultry producers already understand the potentially devastating effects that these types of emergencies can have on their operations. But many will not have an effective disaster and business continuity plan to deal with them.

That's why Alberta Farm Animal Care (AFAC) has supported development of the Alberta Poultry Industry Emergency Response Planning and Resource Guide for Producers. It provides poultry producers with a go-to reference of non-disease related disaster response resources available in Alberta and pertinent information from around the world.

The guide is designed as a framework, says Angela Greter, program manager with AFAC.

"It's a set of recommendations for producers to help them develop disaster response plans for their farms. There are also suggestions for how the industry can help its producers to do that."

Step-by-step guide

There are many aspects to dealing effectively with these emergencies says Greter and as with any business planning, the goal is to have a robust enough plan to do the job but not so complicated that it doesn't get developed or used.

"What really matters is that the producers recognize the value of creating a disaster response plan," she says. "The guide has a lot of information. We know producers are busy people and we hope that they're not overwhelmed by it. That's why it has been designed as a resource guide that they can approach in a systematic way and build their own plan from there."

Trevor Rouillard, an emergency preparedness specialist hired to develop the guide, has experience in other industries. From that first-hand knowledge and his research for the project, he believes the agricultural industry understands disease-related emergencies. However the industry needs to adapt that knowledge to "emergency preparedness, disaster recovery and business continuity planning" for non-disease related emergencies.

User-friendly goal

Rouillard says the poultry project began with a fact finding mission to investigate resources already available to producers within Alberta. Then he looked nationally and globally, examining emergency response approaches within Canada as well as the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand.

"We wanted to produce a user-friendly guide that would provide producers with the architecture for developing their own plan," Rouillard says. "This guide provides the resources and structure to do that."

It walks the producer through the four stages of disaster recovery -- prevention, preparedness, response and recovery. There are also pointers on how producers can protect farm assets by mitigating the effects of disasters.

"There is a lot of regularly scheduled facility maintenance that producers can do as part of being prepared," Rouillard says. "Making sure everything is up to speed and up to code will eliminate so many potential problems on the farm."

Hopefully poultry producers can use their skills to develop their own farm-specific disaster response plans, Rouillard says.

"They're really the boots on the ground, the first people who are dealing with the disaster on the farmstead, so they need an adequate level of preparedness."

Industry responsibility

There is an industry side to all of this as well.

When it comes right down to it, emergency preparedness on any livestock operation has a major focus on the animals and that is important from an industry perspective, says Angela Greter. AFAC hopes this poultry guide will also send a message to consumers and the public that the agricultural industry takes animal care and animal welfare seriously.

"When we're talking about developing preparedness plans, obviously it's partially to protect the producer's livelihood," says Greter. "But it's also about the animals and the fact that producers really do care deeply about their animals. Having this type of plan is one of the best ways they can prepare for something that might negatively impact their families and livestock."

Development of the Alberta Poultry Industry Emergency Response Planning and Resource Guide for Producers was made possible through a grant from the Canadian Agricultural Adaptation Program, administered through the Agriculture and Food Council of Alberta. The Alberta Chicken Producers, Alberta Hatching Egg Producers, Alberta Turkey Producers and Egg Farmers of Alberta provided industry support.

The guide is available on the "Poultry Producers" page of the Alberta Farm Animal Care website.

Reprintable with credit. This article is available for reprint, with acknowledgement of the source as Meristem Land and Science, www.meristem.com.

Meristem is a Calgary-based communications firm that specializes in writing about western agriculture, food and land use. More articles at www.meristem.com.




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