Category Archives: Communication

Weather Wednesday – May through July Outlook

The Climate Prediction Center recently issued its 90-day outlook for temperature and precipitation for the U.S. It also updated the drought monitor tool.

off01_tempIn general the outlook calls for the next three months to feature above normal temperatures in the western third of the country and in the far southeastern states. Alaska and the Pacific Northwest will also be warmer than usual. Below normal temperatures are confined to much of Texas and areas of adjoining states. Most of the country will see an equal chance for above or below normal temperatures.

 

off01_prcpMuch of the nation may experience above normal precipitation from the southeast through the gulf states to the western plains and Rockies along with a good portion of Alaska. The above normal rainfall may bring drought relief to Texas and the four corners area. The Great Lakes states will see below normal precipitation and the potential of a developing drought. Lake levels and fire danger may be impacted.

 

drought 90The drought monitor shows little change in the near term for the hardest hit areas of the west, parts of Texas, and parts of the Dakotas, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Over the 90 day period of the outlook, the drought may ease in Texas and areas northwest of there. However, drought conditions may expand in the Great Lakes. Unfortunately, little or no relief is seen for California.  Just this week water use restrictions of from 8% to 36% were enacted for some municipalities.

Late breaking news.  Tornadoes in Germany!

There was a fairly broad outbreak of severe weather including tornadoes in Germany on Tuesday, May 5.  Here’s coverage from the British newspaper, The Guardian.

Weather Wednesday — April 9, 2015 Illinois Tornado Outbreak

On this Tax Day edition of Weather Wednesday, we’ll revisit last week’s tornado outbreak in Illinois. Statewide, 11 tornadoes have been confirmed in the April 9th event. The earliest, which caused very little damage, was reported just northwest of Peoria in the afternoon hours. By early evening, strong thunderstorms were crossing far northern Illinois and eventually spawned the first EF-4 tornadoes ever reported in DeKalb and Ogle Counties (records kept since 1950) and the strongest tornado in the National Weather Service Chicago Office County Warning Area since an EF-5 devastated Plainfield, in the southwest suburbs, in 1990.

AP_fairdale_tornado_14_sk_150410_16x9_1600
AP

Two people were killed in the unincorporated town of Fairdale where nearly every structure, more than 70 in all counting outbuildings, was either damaged or destroyed. 22 injuries were reported in the outbreak. The tornadoes eventually approached the far western suburbs of Chicago but missed three population centers near their path. Damage was widely scattered in a multi-county area.

PBrooksPhotography_Ashton
PBrooks Photography

This outbreak was well forecast and there is general agreement there was plenty of warning. The Storm Prediction Center (SPC), as it did with the EF-3 and 4 tornadoes in Illinois on November 17, 2013, mentioned possibly tornadic storms at least four days in advance.

The National Weather Service Chicago Office updated their summary of the tornadoes just this morning. This is one of the most complete such documents I’ve ever read and includes some of the few satellite images of a tornado’s path I’ve ever seen. Read it all the way to the bottom and you’ll see the SPC guidance in the week leading up to the storms.

LarissaSebree_HillcrestIL
Wedge tornado and wall cloud near Hillcrest, Illinois. Larissa Sebree via NOAA.

A couple of these tornadoes were extremely well documented via video (note:  Strong language toward end) and live streaming and some of the visuals of the rotating wall clouds were just about textbook. The low sun angle contributed how well the tornadoes were captured.

There was also a significant side issue involving a motorist by the name of Sam Smith who was shooting video. That footage was widely shown on television and the driver was taken to task for getting too close to the storm, even if accidentally.  (There are now licensing issues with the video so we won’t link to it here.  However, it is widely available on You Tube.)

There were a couple of takeaways from his experience which are good reminders to all of us who may encounter storms. First, if a funnel cloud or tornado does not appear to be moving, it is either headed straight for the observer or dead away from the observer. To be safe, get out of that area immediately by driving at right angles to the storm. Second, this motorist backed up to take shelter in his vehicle under a bridge. Although many people have done that and survived, experts say that is a bad idea because wind speed may actually be amplified as it is compressed into that confined space.  There have been fatalities of people under overpasses.

Weather Wednesday –New Definitions from the Storm Prediction Center

There’s been much talk in recent weeks of a more detailed method of describing the potential for severe weather now being employed by the Storm Prediction Center in its Convective Outlooks. The SPC worked with National Weather Service offices, communications experts and consumers of its products to expand its long time use of the “Slight, Moderate and High” risk categories to “Marginal, Slight, Enhanced, Moderate and High.”

In addition, the chart below describes what the storms might look like under each newly-defined category and what the main threats would be.

Understanding Categories
The Storm Prediction Center has many products that can be used by broadcast meteorologists, emergency managers and the general public to look as far as 8 days ahead. These tools are especially valuable for planning purposes and should never supplant your detailed local forecast.

The Mesoscale Discussions are particularly helpful on days when severe weather is expected. The discussions are issued on an “as needed” basis as storm threats develop. Other tools are updated as often as four times a day. If you’ve never visited the site at spc.noaa.gov, now would be a good time to familiarize yourself with the offerings.

 

Meet a Delegate Monday: Andrea Higdon

Michelle Bufkin, AU Agriculture Communications Student/EDEN Community of Practice Social Media Assistant, recently interviewed EDEN delegate Andrea Higdon

1. How did you first get involved with EDEN?Disasters, Preparedness, Andrea Higdon

University of Kentucky’s Point of Contact, Tom Priddy, highly recommended I attend the EDEN Annual Meeting in Fargo, ND, in 2005.  At that first meeting, I recall a very warm welcome from Pat Skinner who immediately pushed me into the deep end of the pool by recruiting me for the Information Clearinghouse Committee.  At the time, I was just beginning to learn about Extension’s role in disaster preparedness.  The innovative ideas and enthusiastic educators at the meeting really motivated me to get more involved and helped mold my career path in disaster preparedness in the food and agriculture sector.

2. What is your role in disaster preparedness in your state?

I currently serve as the Emergency Management System Director for the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment.  In that role, I am responsible for all safety and emergency management activities in the College, including emergency action plans, business continuity, training, and compliance.  I also serve as the College liaison to internal and external local, state, and federal stakeholder emergency preparedness groups.

3. Tell us a little about your role in developing and implementing the SCAP Program.

The EDEN Strengthening Community Agrosecurity Planning (S-CAP) program began as a concept driven by the EDEN Agrosecurity Program Area Work Group.  A need was identified to help local emergency managers address animal and agricultural issues in their emergency operations plans, as its importance is often overlooked.

In 2008, I was part of a team of educators from the University of Kentucky and New Mexico State University that led the development of the program, with significant support from Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Clemson Extension, The University of Tennessee Extension, Colorado State University Extension, Montana State University, and Utah State University Cooperative Extension.  The product resulting from the team effort was a 2-day workshop to enable community partners to build capacity to handle agricultural issues during an emergency or disaster, improve networking among stakeholders who can plan for and respond to emergencies, and develop community agrosecurity planning teams to establish or enhance agrosecurity components within existing local emergency operations plans.

Since its inception, the S-CAP program has been delivered in 20+ states and 50+ trainers have been through the train-the-trainer program.  S-CAP is recognized as a strategic theme in practice to empower local action in the December 2011 FEMA document titled “A Whole Community Approach to Emergency Management:  Principles, Themes, and Pathways for Action (FDOC 104-009-1)”.  The workshop has undergone several revisions to continue to improve upon the original concept.  The most recent revision was approved by FEMA’s National Training and Education Division for inclusion in their state/federal course catalog.  Over the course of the program’s lifetime, we’ve received critical financial support from USDA NIFA and DHS.  I maintain my role as the S-CAP program director and communities continue to host our program with critical support from extension educators across the nation.

4. What has been your favorite part of getting involved with EDEN?

This is an easy question.  Without a doubt, my favorite part of getting involved with EDEN is the people.  EDEN delegates are so passionate and knowledgeable about their craft, one can’t help but walk away feeling energized and excited about disaster preparedness after talking with any one of them.  Over the years I’ve developed deep professional and personal relationships that will last a lifetime.  I truly appreciate and value my time spent in EDEN.

Spring 2015 EDEN Newsletter

In This Issue

Cappadocia Balloons Thinkstock2015 EDEN Annual Meeting
Call for Proposals Deadline April 10

 

From the Chair

Greetings,

March 2-4, the EDEN Executive Committee conducted its mid-winter meeting in Saint Dr. Mike YoderAugustine, Florida.  This meeting is an opportunity for the committee to evaluate EDEN’s progress towards the fulfillment of current projects, evaluate partnerships, membership and any other ships that may be appropriate.

As EDEN begins assess its role for the next 20 years, the primary topic of discussion was development of a new strategic plan.  Plans were developed to conduct this strategic plan during the summer and fall of 2015.  To conduct this plan, we have asked Dr. Nick Place, EDEN’s representative to ECOP, to bring a number of State Extension Directors to the table, to meet with the EDEN Executive Committee and our NIFA representative.  Since the Directors have been major supporters of EDEN, it is imperative that we have an understanding of their vision for EDEN’s relationship with Extension.  Once the strategic plan has been developed, it will be presented to the membership for approval at the EDEN Annual Meeting in October, in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

A number of agenda items were discussed at this year’s mid-winter meeting including but not limited to:

  • Use of “Response Notes” during a disaster to inform not only our Federal partners but EDEN delegates and State Directors.
  • EDEN’s response to “climate variability.” As Extension seeks to determine it’s proper role in addressing the issues of climate variability, what can EDEN bring to the table?
  • Inviting greater participation in EDEN by our 1994 sister institutions.
  • Re-writing our “standard operating procedures” to help direct operations and guide new officers.
  • Strengthening support for EDEN delegates at the state level. Being sure delegates receive needed support for participation in EDEN activities, including the annual meeting

As EDEN prepares for the next 20 years, it is important that we remember our roots, an integrate lessons learned into the strategic planning process.  We look forward to this process and to sharing the results with all delegates at the 2015 Annual Meeting.

Best wishes,

Mike Yoder

EDEN Chair

America’s PrepareAthon!

Disasters can happen at any time and take us all by surprise, so the time to prepare is now. America’s PrepareAthon! is working to help people, just like you, prepare ahead of time.

National PrepareAthon! Day is April 30, 2015 and there will multiple ways to prepare for six specific disasters: earthquake, flood, hurricane, tornado, wildfire, and winter storm. The purpose of America’s PrepareAthon! is to help people understand what type of disasters can happen in their community, how to prepare for those disasters, how to recover from damage from those disasters, to increase their preparedness in general, and to prepare as a community.

Preparing for disaster is extremely important so America’s PrepareAthon! makes it easy to join. Just go to their website and join a group, then begin telling others about what you are planning. Participants can plan an event for themselves, their families, or their communities whatever they are comfortable doing. There are discussion forums for participants to share event ideas, along with disaster preparedness tips.

If you are interested in finding out more information, see their fact sheet and frequently asked questions. Don’t forget to join a group, follow the conversation at #PreparAthon, and be prepared to get prepared on April 30! —  Written by Michelle Buffkin, AU Agriculture Communications Student/EDEN Community of Practice Social Media Assistant.

 

Webinars and Events

Upcoming Webinars & Events
Webinar Archives

Featured Resources

  •  Flooding: The Big Picture describes the phases of disaster response on the context of floods. Each phase links to additional information. Brought to you by the EDEN flood NEIL and CoP.
  • America’s PrepareAthon! also has flood resources, including a playbook for an organizational tabletop exercise.
  • Need a resource on basic disaster preparedness? Check out these two courses from EDEN. One is for families and the other for businesses.
  • Grant opportunities
    • State Farm Service Learning Grant. Closing date is May 1. Steve Cain is coordinating discussions.
    • Strengthening the Public’s and/or K-12 Students’ Environmental Literacy for Community Resilience to Extreme Weather Events and Environmental Changes. Contact Keith Tidball if you’re interested in this opportunity.
    • Specialty Crop and Organic Agriculture Research and Extension. Steve Cain is coordinating discussion on applicability of drought education to specialty and organic crops. Contact Steve for more information.

Meet a Delegate Monday: Pete Barcinas

Michelle Bufkin, AU Agriculture Communications Student/EDEN Community of Practice Social Media Assistant, recently interviewed EDEN delegate Pete Barcinas from Guam. 

1. How did you first get involved with EDEN?

Our involvement with EDEN began March 2004 when we were welcomed by then EDEN Chair, Mark Hansen from Michigan State University and continue to participate since then.

2. What is your role in disaster preparedness?

At the University of Guam we collaborate with various agencies to help address both technical assistance requests related to programs and information around disaster education.  This includes periodic review and updates of our typhoon publications.  We work closely with our local first responders to provide information and support.

3. What are some unique challenges you have seen, pertaining to disaster preparedness, from living on an island?

The area of food security continues to be a concern for the community.  Recently, a delayed container shipment impacted the availability of food commodities and came at the same time with the West coast port labor disputes that handles our Guam-bound surface shipments.  While the industry and government folks work to address the pending food shortages, this came at some significant costs (for air freight) for perishable foods.  Also, Guam serves as break-bulk point to the other islands and you can imagine their food needs when we experience these situations.  For food, being prepared with a steady stock of important foodstuff can get the family by until the short term crisis is resolved.  As you can see, while food is important other non-food commodities add to quality of life and well-being issues.

 4. Can you share a lesson learned about working with communities on disaster preparedness?

Maintaining your disaster networks both locally and nationally is important.  They can provide updated information and resources that can be helpful.  The training opportunities is just amazing.

 5. What would be your biggest piece of advice to other EDEN Delegates?

I think the work that EDEN attempts to address across all disaster topic and issue areas is just awesome work, keeping the community interest first and providing timely and useful information is important.

 

Meet A Delegate Monday: Keith Tidball

Michelle Bufkin, AU Agriculture Communications Student/EDEN Community of Practice Social Media Assistant, recently interviewed EDEN delegate Keith Tidball.

1. How did you first get involved with EDEN? EDEN. Extension Disaster Education preparedness
I was approached in 2011 by the leadership of the extension service in New York. Our state program was in need of “tuning up” and I was asked because of my research and activities in the area of natural resources management in disaster. With my background as a leader in the military and later involvement as a USDA Foreign Agriculture Service international affairs specialist who dealt with disaster in the agriculture and natural resources sector, I jumped at the opportunity to engage with the NY Extension Disaster Education Network. After I attended my first national conference, I was even more excited and focused upon working to make the NY EDEN an example of what a state program can do if they take the ball and run hard with it.

2. What is your role for disaster preparedness within your state?
In New York State, we see the national EDEN as a platform upon which to build a highly effective and visible state program. In that sense, we work with our state agencies closely not only in preparedness, but in all phases of the disaster cycle. Thanks to the national EDEN, we can confidently say that we have the very best science from the best universities in the country, and we are ready to serve the public at all times. This we feel is in keeping with the land grant mission and vision, and is actually a way of reacquainting a whole new generation with the land grant idea and the idea of cooperative extension.

Our role is to work at all times with preparedness. We anticipate needs based on past experiences and future threats, and we either develop our own materials or publicize excellent materials from other land grants via our website, webinars, social media, and through traditional county cooperative extension channels. As a threat, hazard, or vulnerability emerges, we asses it, develop tailored materials to address it, and act upon it, using our cooperative extension networks and the networks of our partners to disseminate preparedness and readiness educational materials. Once a threat or hazard materializes, we then take on additional roles to compliment other state and federal efforts to prepare for and respond to an imminent event.

3. Can you explain your role with dealing with the recent snow and cave ins, in your state?
My role was to serve as the incident commander for the state land grant’s role in the event. As the event became imminent, I worked with the rest of our state EDEN program leadership to strategize for the event – this entails a quick anticipated needs assessment and a social media blitz of warnings and resources to get people ready to navigate the event as resiliently as possible. I make the decision to request activation of our relatively newly instituted Standard Operating Procedures for Disaster /All-Hazards Recovery which is either approved or denied by our state Director of Cooperative Extension. Once he or she approves this request, I implement a very involved set of actions that include experts on campus, liaisons to state agencies, and our regional and county extension personnel. Among many other things, we serve as the eyes and ears for the first hand real time ways in which the disaster is unfolding and having an impact upon the agricultural sector in particular. In this role, we work hand in hand with our state and federal agricultural agency partners to direct immediate assistance as quickly as possible to where it’s needed, and to assist with the longer term process of damage assessment and recovery.

So in the recent snow event in Western New York, we had 90 dead livestock animals,
80 damaged or destroyed green houses, 38 barns down or damaged, with over 65 total farms in 6 Western NY counties affected. Our Agriculture Sentinel capability was used to communicate emerging needs regarding snow loads, collapses, livestock in jeopardy in real time. We are never first responders, however, we are involved in communicating and disseminating information as it becomes available so that first responders can understand and react appropriately to unique ag related issues and emergencies. In one case in particular, I remember helping to direct New York National Guard to a barn threatening to collapse. Farmers often aren’t going to call 911 about these issues, but it is still an emergency, so we are a part of a coordinated state approach to fill this gap. We can help get information to the right people quickly. Meanwhile, our county extension leadership act as the field element in these cases and play a central role in initial situation reporting which is so crucial in these events, and of course later assessment once the actual event is over. I act to coordinate all of this communication, first and foremost to make sure our stakeholders get the service and assistance they need (an applied or engaged research and extension role), and secondly to position extension as a preferred source of evidence-based educational materials. A major extension education outcome of this work is educating policy makers and emergency responders in New York State about the agile, nimble state-wide system of cooperative extension that exists upon a foundation of extensive subject area expertise, all of which is an already existing and is an already paid for public good.

4. What advice would you give to people about disaster preparedness and recovery, after being involved in recovery from the November snow storm, Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and other recent natural disasters?
My advice is to extension folks who either have not embraced the idea of disaster education as a role or niche for extension, or to those who may understand the role of extension in disaster so far as developing and disseminating fact sheets are concerned, but shy away from further involvement.

Think of getting your hands dirty in disaster response and recovery as project learning, an important and accepted component of extension education. Experts believe that what takes project learning to the next level is when it’s real. We pride ourselves in extension on solving real problems we face in our world — problems that make the news and that our stakeholders really care about, giving them the power to turn their knowledge into action. I think that though some project-learning activities regularly miss the opportunity to be real life-changing experiences for learners in the extension system, people who get involved in EDEN in their state, these folks will experience tremendous satisfaction in their work because they will see that the extension educators they touch, the community members, the agency folks, all will be impressed by the resources available and the responsiveness of the extension system. But more important than being impressed, they will learn about what they can and should do in all phases of the disaster cycle and how extension can help.

Meet a Delegate Monday: Sonja Koukel

Michelle Bufkin, AU Agriculture Communications Student/EDEN Community of Practice Social Media Assistant, recently interviewed EDEN delegate Sonja Koukel

1. How did you first get involved with EDEN?Sonja Koukel
My initial involvement in disaster preparedness and emergency planning occurred when I was employed as a University of Alaska Fairbanks Extension district agent based in Juneau (2005-2010). One of the most important roles I played in that capacity happened when an avalanche took out the hydropower lines affecting 30,000 residents. As the Extension agent, I provided information to the Governor’s office covering topic areas from keeping foods safe to safe use of alternative fuel heat sources. When I relocated to New Mexico, I approached Billy Dictson – then, the Point of Contact (POC) – and asked what I could do to help. I became an EDEN delegate, attended the 2010 Lexington, KY, annual meeting and have attended every annual meeting since. I also became the POC when Mr. Dictson retired.

2. Can you tell us a little about your role in disaster preparedness in your state?
This is another area in which Billy Dictson played a large part. He was a founding member of the Southwest Border Food Safety and Defense Center housed on the New Mexico State University campus. In a nutshell, the Center helps communities plan and exercise food protection planning and incident response, all hazards agriculture response and recovery planning, and risk assessment planning. When I arrived in NM, Mr. Dictson hired me to coordinate the Food Safety Initiative. Upon his retirement, 2012, I stepped into the position of Co-Director for the Center. As an Extension Specialist, and through my connection with the Center, I assist in helping raise awareness of disaster preparedness with Extension county agents and the general public, by providing materials, resources, and exploring the best use of social media in response and recovery.

3. How have you seen disaster preparedness differ from state to state?
While the nature of the potential disaster may differ – avalanches in Alaska / wildfires in New Mexico – I find the act of preparedness very similar no matter where you live. The greatest difficulty is in getting individuals to actively engage in preparedness as most have the “it will never happen to me” mentality. In both Alaska and New Mexico, my work revolves around raising awareness, engaging Extension agents and community members in training and exercises, and then keeping people involved during the absence of disasters.

4. What can EDEN delegates look forward to for the 2015 EDEN Annual meeting?
Bienviendos! The Annual Meeting will be held in Las Cruces, New Mexico – also known as “The City of the Crosses.” Located about 50 miles north of the Mexican border, with a population of just over 100,000, it is the second largest city in the state and is home to New Mexico State University – the land-grant institution of NM.

EDEN delegates have a unique opportunity to visit the Santa Teresa International Export/Import Livestock Crossing located on the U.S.-Mexico border. The border crossing is the busiest in the U.S. averaging over 300,000 animals a year. Visit their website for videos and more in-depth information. We are currently planning: a tour of the Santa Teresa “inland port” Union Pacific rail facility and a visit to Old Mesilla, NM, where Billy the Kid was tried and sentenced to hang. Visit the EDEN homepage for information on the post-meeting trip to Albuquerque – an EDEN excursion to the International Balloon Fiesta!

5. What was your favorite part of the 2014 EDEN Annual meeting?
Attending Annual Meeting is a source of motivation for me. Reconnecting with EDEN professionals who have become friends over the years, meeting new delegates, and attending the informational sessions are my favorite parts. I’m always amazed with the incredible work the EDEN group accomplishes year after year. Muscle Shoals, AL, is a fabulous place and a location I don’t think I would have experienced had it not been for EDEN.

Meet a Delegate Monday: Pat Skinner

Michelle Bufkin, AU Agriculture Communications Student/EDEN Community of Practice Social Media Assistant, recently interviewed EDEN delegate Pat Skinner. 

Pat Skinner photo

1. How did you first get involved with EDEN?

In fall of 1997 the LSU AgCenter disaster mitigation and housing programs convened a conference in New Orleans called “Breaking the Housing Disaster Cycle.” Joe Wysocki, then program leader for CSREES housing education, mentioned that he was working with a North Central Region (NCR) committee called EDEN. EDEN’s three-year NCR committee life was coming to an end and the members wanted to explore taking the concept national. They joined our conference and – at the end – asked if Louisiana would take the leadership and begin expanding the membership. I became the first national chair and webmaster in January 1998.

2. Can you tell us a little about your role in disaster preparedness in your state?
My role in disaster management is primarily about risk appreciation and mitigation. I came to Extension in the early 1990’s for the specific purpose of conducting an education program associated with a river commission project to raise five structures “slab-n-all.” That program was funded by FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) for Hurricane Andrew. I had no Extension experience, but lots of experience with floods and the federal flood programs, primarily the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).

In the late 1990s I led another project in which we developed and coached flood mitigation task forces in fifteen SE Louisiana parishes. The task-force project introduced our Extension agents to parish floodplain administrators (FPAs), and introduced both our agents and FPAs to their emergency managers and occasionally to local voluntary organizations active in disasters. The 1997 conference that brought EDEN to New Orleans was part of this task-force project.

My primary program since the 2005 hurricanes (Katrina and Rita) has been creation of an Internet-based Enterprise GIS system that provides flood- and wind-hazard information for any point in Louisiana; the point is specified by a user placing a pin in a map manually or by address lookup, using road and aerial base maps for reference. At www.LSUAgCenter.com/Floodmaps we host, read and interpret the Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) of the NFIP for the entire state. We read the Basic Wind Speed (BWS) at a location from another Internet service we built for this application. We give the user ground elevation (consumed from the US Geological Survey), which the user can compare to Base Flood Elevation (BFE) on the FIRM to get an idea of how deep the 100-year flood would be at their point of interest. We even draw them a picture using our BFE Scenarios application. The BWS and BFE information is essential to people making building and restoration decisions because the statewide building code adopted in 2006 requires buildings to be designed and built to resist damage from these hazards.

Currently I have the privilege of managing a comprehensive disaster mitigation program that for the first time engages 4-H youth.

3. What was a highlight from your term as EDEN chair?
The highlight of working in Extension is always getting to work with really good, selfless people on a mission. That would be true for the early EDEN days, and still today. As I see how subsequent chairs have managed and led and hosted meetings I am horrified at what I didn’t know back then. But these are forgiving folk.

Louisiana took the leadership because EDEN asked us to. I took the lead role because my boss said I should. He believed in me, even though – or perhaps because – I knew nothing about Extension. I was unencumbered by notions of what was and was not possible at any level. So I guess the highlight was simply that over those early years we moved forward.

4. Can you tell us about the role you currently hold with EDEN?
My official role in EDEN is Web Manager and PD for the LSU AgCenter subcontract of Purdue’s NIFA funds for support of EDEN work. The LSU AgCenter hosts a number of EDEN Internet and Intranet web presences and provides networking support, working closely with the EDEN Communications group at Purdue. I gave up web-mastering many years ago and now just think up stuff for our very talented webmaster – Andrew Garcia — to do.
I am most active in the EDEN Exec and international committees, and now taking greater interest in the youth activities and disaster activation and communication planning arenas.

5. What was your favorite part of the 2014 EDEN Annual Meeting?
There were several high points, but my hands-down favorite part had to be bringing the 4-H’ers to the meeting and having the group receive them with such enthusiasm.

Meet a Delegate Monday: Becky Koch

Michelle Bufkin, AU Agriculture Communications Student/EDEN Community of Practice Social Media Assistant, recently interviewed EDEN delegate Becky Koch who will be presenting at the EDEN Annual Meeting.

1. How did you first get involved with EDEN?

Becky Koch March 2011After the 1993 Mississippi and Missouri River floods, Iowa, Missouri, and Illinois got a grant from what is now the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) to study what they and other states could learn from the flood experience. They wanted to study how we could learn from each other, so each state did not have to start from scratch after a disaster like this. They sent letters to every extension director about a discussion meeting in Kansas City, asking each North Central Region state to send a representative. The NDSU Extension Service interim director came to me with this letter, stating that they needed communications people at this meeting and asked if I wanted to go. My first response,was, “disasters? That has nothing to with what I do.” But it was a free trip home for me, so I went to the meeting. Little did I know how much that spoof of an experience would impact my career and my life. I had no idea how important those connections and lessons learned would be beneficial three years down the road when North Dakota flooded. There was not an EDEN website in ‘97 when we flooded, so I emailed people every day for weeks with questions. I realized how important that network of states was when we experienced this similar disaster and I could turn to them.

2. In your opinion what is the most important part of preparing a business for a disaster?
One of the most important steps is having a communications plan. I’m responsible for 25 people in my department. I have not done everything I could for my “business” but we have a communications plan. Everybody knows how to learn if the university is going to be closed. We have talked about each of us taking individual responsibility to know what’s going on because I won’t have time to call everyone or the phones might be down. We also talk about being prepared at home. The university does fire drills, but they had never done a tornado drill, so we did a tornado drill to practice sheltering in place in addition to evacuating. Practicing where to go is so very important. A communications plan with staff and drills to practice the basics are necessary for any business to prepare for a disaster.

3. Can you tell us a little about your EDEN meeting material?
NDSU received a NIFA Smith-Lever Special Needs grant to develop an app for both Android and Apple smartphones and tablets to help businesses develop their disaster preparedness plans. The first question we always get is, “why do you need that as an app? All that information is online.” The nice thing about the app is that the business owner/manager can walk around the office, take pictures of equipment, write in what piece of equipment it is and when it was bought, and take inventory for a disaster. The app will make it easier, which will hopefully motivate small businesses to actually develop a plan. At the EDEN meeting, we will ask for volunteers to test the app, along with students in NDSU’s Emergency Management major.

4. Can you tell us about your role in handling disasters in North Dakota?
The disaster we get the most in North Dakota is flooding. We get blizzards, but the only thing you can do for those is prepare and shelter in place. We promote blizzard preparedness ,such as having a winter survival kit in your car, downloading our Winter Survival Kit app, keeping an emergency kit at home. It is easier to sell preparedness up here, because people have been stuck at home during a blizzard, so they take it more seriously. As a communicator, I send out news releases and notifications to our own staff. I also work very closely with Ken Hellevang to review what flood resources are online, and what else we need to post. We figure out what to send to the staff and public to get the word out about flooding that is occurring and how to be prepared and how to recover. I also work very closely with the subject matter experts, no matter the disaster, to see if other states have resources through EDEN or to help them create resources to give out to our staff or the public.

5. What piece of advice would you give to our delegates?
Utilize the network. I was at the meeting where we came up with the name Extension Disaster Education Network, and “network” truly is the perfect word. It is so important for us to work together, to ask questions of each other, to share resources, and to make sure we are telling the same story across state lines. Utilize the network: do not be afraid to just send out an email if you need information. Do not just wait for information to come to you, but reach out to others who might provide information and resources pertinent to your state and situation. Also utilize the courses online. You do not have to be an expert on something to teach it. Those courses provide the background and information you need to help you teach others about those topics.