The hurricane season began June 1 and runs through November 30. Forecasts call for a busy season, with the potential for 12 to 17 tropical storms and hurricanes.

The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) reminds farmers to take necessary steps now to help protect their families, farms, equipment and animals if a storm strikes. While there’s nothing anyone can do to lessen the severity of a storm, good planning will help reduce the potential damage.

Farmers need to make preparations for their families, crews, equipment and buildings, and have backup plans for electricity for their barns and other critical farm facilities. In addition, livestock operations should maintain emergency plans that address power needs and on-site feed capabilities.

Horse owners need to plan for the possibility of evacuation and identify horse facilities in nearby vicinities that are willing to shelter horses in an emergency. Before the storm strikes, find out what their requirements are for vaccinations, a current Coggins Test, and other health-related issues.

With all the equipment on a farm, farmers need to do their homework in advance to protect their operations. Farmers should have a transfer switch properly installed so they can use a generator. A properly-installed transfer switch is critical for the protection of farm facilities and utility workers.

VDACS offers the following tips for preparing farms for major storms. 
Short-range preparations are those things to do once the weather report indicates a problem storm is brewing.These include:

• Monitoring local weather reports for up-to-the-minute information on the storm.

• Charging batteries on cell phones and pagers and determining check-in points for family members and workers.

• Storing or securing items or equipment that may blow away or blow into structures, including lawn furniture and ornaments

• Checking generators to be sure they are in good working order and purchasing sufficient amounts of fuel to operate them.

• Checking feed inventory and ordering extra if needed.

• Moving poultry and livestock to higher ground if possible and sheltering them in securely battened barns, houses, or tightly-fenced areas.

• Turning off the propane supply at tanks and securing tanks in the event of flooding to prevent them from floating away.

• Moving equipment to the highest, open ground possible away from trees or buildings.

• Pumping and storing adequate supplies of drinking water for humans and animals in the case of power outages. VDACS recommends a minimum 36-hour reserve.

• Topping off all gas, propane and other fuel tanks, including the family vehicles.

• Marking animals with an identifier so they can be returned to you if lost. This can include ear tags with name of farm and/or phone numbers, brands, paint markings on hooves or coat, or clipped initials in the hair.

• Moving feed to higher ground or to a more accessible place in case of flooding or transportation problems.

• Checking the security of roofing materials, siding, and windows and doors in barns and poultry houses to make sure they will not blow off or blow open in strong winds.

• Coordinating with neighbors beforehand to discuss what resources can be shared in the event of power outages or flooding.

• Making a list of important phone numbers in order to make calls following a storm. Potential numbers to include are the local emergency management office, county extension agent, insurance agent, county Farm Service Agency, and private veterinarian.

• Contacting the Virginia Department of Emergency Management ahead of time for local emergency offices, or getting that information from www.vaemergency.com.

When the emergency is over, farmers with crop insurance need to remember two rules: contact your crop insurance agent as soon as you are aware of any damage and do not destroy any of your crop until the adjuster or an insurance company representative has inspected the field and released the acreage.

The Virginia Department of Emergency Management provides more information on hurricane preparedness at www.vaemergency.com.