EDEN's Ready Tips


Feeding cattle in a drought.jpgIt is a creeping disaster. Slowly, the earth loses its moisture. Row crops don’t make it to harvest or their yields are reduced. Livestock have little to no grazing because the forage crops aren’t growing. Hay feeding begins months earlier than normal and becomes a scarce commodity and in some areas, water sources are drying up. Cost to feed livestock is increasing. 

These conditions compound already low commodity received by row crop farmers and reduced cattle prices. Farmers across Alabama and the south were facing some of the most challenging farm financial conditions since the 1980’s before this year’s drought began.

Agriculture-related businesses such as sod farms, nurseries, landscaping, and yard maintenance depend on seasonal weather and moisture to keep their businesses operational. In a drought, rainy day maintenance chores don’t get completed and down time is scarce. As the drought continues, there is less demand for product or services and sales decrease. Workers may be laid off and businesses may even have to close their doors.

All of these things take a toll on people’s mental health. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) lists several warning signs for emotional distress related to drought.

  • Feelings of overwhelming anxiety
  • Constant worrying
  • Trouble sleeping and other depression-like symptoms
  • Disputes between people over limited water supplies
  • Financial concerns related to crop failures, low supply and demand of agricultural-related produces, or rising food prices

Farmers and those in agriculture-related businesses may not acknowledge that the drought is affecting them or their families. Rural residents also may have limited access to mental health providers. Nevertheless, there are actions they can take to reduce their stress.

  1. Acknowledge and talk about feelings with family, friends and neighbors.
  2. Eat healthy and get adequate sleep.
  3. Nurture personal relationships.

If you recognize symptoms of emotional distress in family members or friends, you can help even if you are not a mental health provider. You can be supportive. The following are helpful things to say to someone who has experienced disaster.

  • Ask how someone has been coping. Allow the person to tell his or her story.
  • Let the person know that he/she is having a normal reaction to an abnormal event.
  • Help people understand that everyone copes with stress differently and that there is no one right way to cope with a disaster.
  • Communicate to individuals that they need to take care of themselves in order to be able to help others.
  • Change is huge, but people can find a new normal. It takes time, so help people recognize that they will be able to make steps toward the future and that new normal.
  • Instill hope that there will be better days ahead.
  • Reassure people that it is okay to take help when they need it.

You may also find these resources helpful for coping with drought-related stress, whether for yourself or someone else.

IMG_3216.JPGSeptember 30 -- Homecoming weekend on the Plains begins today. Big tents are in place, tables and chairs are set, recycle and trash bins are strategically placed, and fraternities and sororities are adding last-minute touches to their floats for this evening's parade. Out of town football fans are getting ready for the trek to Auburn. They

  • Checked vehicle tire pressure and fluid levels, and fueled up for the road trip.
  • Finalized lodging arrangement.
  • Packed picnic items and clothes.
  • Located game tickets.

This year's homecoming events begin on National (Disaster) Preparedness Day. What does National Preparedness Day have to do with homecoming? Maybe nothing, but maybe it has to do with being prepared for the day it's your turn to host the hordes that arrive for a fabulous weekend of food and fun.

In both cases, it pays to plan ahead. In both cases, you can anticipate lots of possibilities. In both cases, you'll probably forget something, but you'll have the big things covered. Big things such as

  • Food
  • Beverage (water is a basic)
  • Assembly location, including instructions on how to get there
  • Contact information
  • First aid kit and medications
  • Lights
  • Fuel (grill, generator, vehicle)
  • Extra clothes (it might be wet or cold or involve multiple days)
  • Games (include some that don't require electronics)
  • Paper products and cleanup supplies (toilet paper, paper towels, transh bags, etc)

Go wild! Plan an event and use your list to organize your disaster kits. It's a good idea to keep one at home, in your vehicle, and at work.

No matter the date, every day is a good day to be prepared for disaster. Have fun and be prepared for whatever comes your way.


Alabama hasn't felt the impacts of a hurricane since 2005 when wind damage from Hurricane Katrina extended into northern Alabama. The prior year Hurricane Ivan made landfall just west of Gulf Shores and moved north through the state. Damage was not limited to coastal counties. One hundred miles inland, Demopolis received wind gusts estimated at 90 mph, while Montgomery saw wind gusts in the 60-70 mph range.

​NOAA's Hurricane Prediction Center says we're most likely to see a near-normal Atlantic hurricane season. The 2016 prediction suggests more hurricane activity than we've seen in the past three years. It is time to check your level of preparedness for hurricane season.

Five Things You Can Do To Be Prepared

  1. Gather your emergency supplies now. Don't wait until the storm is imminent. Many items you need you already may have at home. Check this basic emergency supplies list.
  2. Create a hurricane evacuation plan. Be sure to include plans to accommodate special needs and pets. If your home is sufficiently reinforced and outside the evacuation zone, you may plan to stay there. If you can't use your house, decide now where you'll go—for instance, to a friend's or relative's house or a shelter that is officially open. 
  3. Review your insurance policies. If you are in a flood zone or in a special flood hazard area, do you have flood insurance? If your property is near a ridge or open land or water, it may be especially susceptible to wind damage. Does your insurance cover wind damage?
  4. Protect and strengthen your house. Trim or cut tree branches and shrubs that may damage your house in a storm. Determine if the house has connectors to tie the roof to the walls and the walls to the foundation. Can you retrofit to strengthen your home? Consider options to protect windows, garage and doors. Consider buying a generator; if you already have one, inspect it to insure it is working properly.
  5. Plan to secure your belongings. If you discuss this with your family ahead of time, the stress of moving them can be reduced. You will want to bring in all outdoor furniture and anything else that might blow away. If you have antique or sentimental pieces and your house is prone to flooding, or you think it might, move those pieces to a higher level. You can also take inventory of your belongings now, either by pictures or pen and paper. This will better help the insurance company assess losses.

See also the Alabama Homeowner Handbook to Prepare for Natural Hazards from the Gulf of Mexico Alliance, and the Emergency Handbook from Alabama Extension.

Atlantic hurricane season is June 1 – November 30. Be ready and be safe!​

Have you prepared yourself and your family for disasters, natural or otherwise? If you have, congratulations! If you haven't, what's holding you back? 

The Extension Disaster Education Network (EDEN) blog has posted seven great reasons why you should be prepared for disaster.​ Being prepared makes economic sense in the short- and long-term. After reading this post, you might even decide that the recommendations make sense regardless of disaster status. 

Check it out here. And be prepared!

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This is not a request for money. Rather, it's a reminder that we can give our families the gift of being prepared for disaster any time of the year - and it doesn't have to cost a fortune.

Every season boasts special types of weather for which you want to be prepared, but how you prepare for each season's weather and potential disasters includes common basic preparedness steps.

Get a kit. Build an emergnecy kit tailored for you and your family. The general rule is to have enough supplies on hand for at least three days for each person in your household. If you can include additional water and food, you will be better prepared to take care of yourself and your family. Also build a go kit for your vehicle.

Make a plan. Depending on the type of disaster, you may need to stay where you are or evacuate to a safer location. Make a communication plan for you family so everyone will know how to stay in touch in case you are in separate locations when a disaster occurs.

Review your insurance policies. Homeowners insurance can protect you from loss of property and legal liability. House fire damage and loss is typically covered by homeowners insurance. Coverage is based on the cost of replacing the entire structure. Personal property is figured as a percentage of that cost. Review policies each year to update changing needs. Renters are not covered by homeowners insurance. If you rent, consider purchasing insurance for your possessions.

Flood insurance is not part of standard homeowners insurance. Flood insurance provides financial protection from floods associated with hurricanes, tropical storms, heavy rains and other conditions that may impact your area.

Do you have earthquake insurance? Most people don't buy it because they think it is too expensive and that an earthquake won't happen to them. The central United States, which includes Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and Tennessee, has a moderate to high risk for earthquakes, depending on the area of the state.

Be informed. Listen to your local radio and television stations or check their web sites for the most current information.

Preparedness is a gift worth receiving any time of the year.

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I love this time of year. There’s an electric quality to the air and the feeling of new beginnings.

It’s move-in week on this college campus. Anticipation, fear, excitement, dread, worry—I imagine all of these emotions floating around me as families move new and returning students into dorms and apartments all over campus and around town.

I’m betting these students are getting mentally prepared for classes, studying, and making new friends. But are they prepared for possible monkey wrench—an accident—in the middle of their activities?

Everyone, regardless of student or nonstudent status, can do one thing to avoid accidents or to effectively react to such events: pay attention.

Watch for Dangers While on Foot

Watch people around you when you are walking. If you see activity that doesn’t seem normal or appropriate, move away and call the police. Don’t walk alone at night or in unfamiliar areas. Approach your vehicle with caution, even during the day. Have your keys ready, glance underneath the vehicle, and check inside. If someone is loitering near your car, walk to a place of safety, and call the police. The National Crime Prevention Council has resources for 18- to 24-year-olds.

Watch for Dangers While Driving

According to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a leading cause of unintentional injury deaths of people ages 15 to 44 was motor vehicle traffic.  Distracted driving was a major factor. Any activity that takes a person’s attention away from driving endangers the driver, passengers, and bystanders. Texting is at the top of the list of distracted driving activities. Put down the phone. Practice defensive driving.  Learn how from Robert Schaller’s 70 Rules of Defensive Driving.

Improve Your Chances by Paying Attention

Actions you take can help reduce your chances of adding to these statistics. Pay attention to what is happening around you. Take action to make your surroundings safe for yourself and your loved ones. Visit the Safe Kids USA, Ready.gov, National Crime Prevention Council, American Red Cross, National Safety Council, and eXtension for checklists, planning templates, fact sheets, and other materials to help you stay safe. 


Emergencies are never convenient; most often they seem to occur at the most inopportune times. For example, early one morning (1:30 a.m.), I felt the need to get up and discovered that the toilet was spraying water all over the bathroom. Later we began the basement cleaning that was required due to the propensity for water to fall through the flooring. Luckily, we had only clean water to mop and a few rugs and cushions to dry. It could have been much worse.

It takes deliberate planning to be prepared for most emergencies and—by extension—many disasters you may face. You may find that much of what you need to respond to an emergency is already in your home. How do you prepare for small emergencies such as our small late night/early morning water supply hose break? How would that help in a larger event?

Knowledge is one of the basic tools you need to be prepared. Can you answer “yes” to the following questions?

  • Do you know where to turn off the water in your bathroom and kitchen? Do you know where and how to turn off the water supply at the house? Do you know how to turn off the water supply at the water meter (do you know where that meter is located?)?
  • Do you know which breakers disconnect the electricity to air conditioning units, large appliances, and outlets? Do you know where the main breaker to the house is located?
  • Do you have natural or propane gas for water heaters or home heating? Do you know the locations of the valves in the house? If there is a need, do you know how to turn off the main valve? Watch NDSU Extension Engineer Ken Helevang​ demonstrate how to turn off the main valve on the natural gas meter and on the propane tank.  [Do NOT turn main valves back on after a disaster—contact your local provider]

My answers to these questions were a mix of “yes” and “no.” Yours probably were too. Take a few minutes to learn these basics, so you will be better prepared for the next emergency.

For information on preparing for future floods, visit eXtension.org. ​


July 17 – The 2015 Barbasol Championship golf tournament is taking place on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail at Grand National in Opelika, Alabama, this week. When PGA Tour officials visited the site, they were pleased with the location and the pleasant temperatures. I don’t think they visited in July!

Tournament temperatures are in the mid- to upper 90s with the heat index even higher. But the golfers are professionals. They play in good weather and in bad. Fans in the gallery are also dedicated, following their favorites as long as there is action on the course.

As with other outdoor sports, participants and observers need to be aware of the surroundings and be prepared for whatever weather the day may bring. In summer, that could mean hot and humid one minute and a thunderstorm the next. Lightning is the primary danger during a thunderstorm.

So far this year, twenty people in the United States, including three in Alabama, have been struck by lightning and died. What were they doing? The victims had one thing in common—they were all outside. The range of their activities was broad (walking dogs, walking across a parking lot, riding a motorcycle, working on a roof, camping, herding cattle, covering chickens, sitting on a beach, fishing, or playing disc golf).  

Some people are struck by lightning and live to tell about it. Greg Whitis is one of them. Here is his story.

I was a graduate student in Auburn Fisheries in 1982. One of my chores as a fish head on the North Research Unit was to feed the fish. A buddy of mine, David Crosby, was driving a van, and we parked under a lone pine tree next to a set of ponds. I walked around back to the rear of the van and was just reaching for the back door when it hit. I remember a huge spark leaping from the door of the van to my hand and being knocked to the ground. David said he felt it coming as his hair started to get tingly. I can’t recall hearing anything loud. I do recall the smell of ozone—kind of like a motor burning up. David wasn’t hit—I guess being in the van insulated him. I, on the other hand, probably served as a grounding rod for the van. The pine tree probably served as a bigger lightning rod.  I do recall standing under a blue sky and a thunderstorm off in the distance.

I was dazed and it took maybe a minute before I realized what had happened. I don’t think I blacked out at all. No burns. No long lasting effects either. I would say it did affect my job performance when I worked on a fish farm after graduating. One thing I just could not do was operate a crane (boom) truck if I heard thunder. I would just lock up mentally. A crane truck is a perfect lighting rod because the metal outriggers are usually on the ground and provide a really good truck-to-ground connection. And the boom could be the tallest thing around.

I do have an almost cavalier attitude about lightning striking again. I figure what are the odds getting hit twice in a lifetime? Seriously, if I am rototilling or riding on my tractor and hear thunder in the distance, I do seek shelter, but I don’t cower in a storm.​ 

Don’t cower and don’t risk being one of those people who will die by a lightning strike. If you are caught outdoors, go immediately to safe shelter—a substantial building with electricity and plumbing or an enclosed, metal-topped vehicle with the windows up. Here are a few indoor safety tips.

  • Avoid contact with anything that conducts electricity:
    • ​Corded telephones, computers, and other electrical equipment
    •    Plumbing, including sinks, baths, and faucets
    • Stay away from windows and doors, and stay off porches.
  • Do not lie on concrete floors or lean on concrete walls.

If you cannot go indoors, remember these last-resort outdoor tips from NOAA.

  • ​Immediately get off elevated areas such as hills, mountain ridges, or peaks.
  • Never lie flat on the ground.
  • Never shelter under an isolated tree.
  • Never use a cliff or rocky overhang for shelter.
  • Immediately get out and way from ponds, lakes, and other bodies of water.
  •  Stay away from objects that conduct electricity (barbed wire fences, power lines, windmills, etc.)

For more information, go to http://www.lightningsafety.noaa.gov/fatalities.shtml


Sun with steam cloud.gif
Every time I've stepped outdoors the last few days, I imagined that I stepped into a room in which someone was pouring water on hot rocks. It's hot, steamy, and hard to breathe. But I'm not really in a saunaI'm just in Central Alabama on a summer day.
According to the National Weather Service (NWS), one or more parts of the United States will experience a heat wave each summer. Heat waves in our part of the country tend to combine high temperatures with high humidity.
Heat alerts are issued by the NWS Forecast office. These alerts include
  • Excessive Heat Outlooks are issued when there is potential for an excessive heat event in the next 3-7 days.  The outlook (forecast) is based on the combination of temperature and humidity over the specified period of days.
  • Excessive Heat Watches are issued when conditions are favorable in the next 24 to 72 hours.
  • Excessive Heat Warning/Advisories are issued when an excessive heat even is occurring, is imminent or has a very high probability of occurring. The warning is used when conditions pose a threat to life. An advisory is issued for less serious conditions that can cause significant discomfort that may lead to life-threatening conditions if precautionary measures aren’t taken. 

All three types of alert are based on Heat Index (HI) values. The Heat Index is a measure of how hot it feels when relative humidity (RH) is added to the actual air temperature.  For example, if the air temperature is 80° F and the relative humidity is 70%, the Heat Index (how it feels) is 83° F, and if the air temperature is 90° F and the relative humidity is 70%, the Heat Index is 105° F. If you’re in the sun, these temperatures may feel up to 15 degrees hotter.


As hot as it might be outside, car interiors and other unventilated spaces get even hotter. Dark dashboards and car seats contribute to the heating of cars. The sun on an 80° F day can heat the interior of a car to 123° F in one hour.  Interior surfaces directly exposed to the sun can be even hotter.

Keep children, disabled adults, and pets safe
  • Make sure safety seats and safety belt buckles are not too hot before securing children in the car.
  • Never leave children, disabled adults, or pets unattended in a vehicle, even with the windows down.
  • Teach children not to play in, on, or around vehicles.
  • Always lock car doors and trunks—even at home. Keep keys out of children’s reach.
  • Always make sure all children have left the car when you reach your destination. Don’t ever leave sleeping children in the car.
Extremely hot and humid weather affects our bodies’ ability to cool. Young children and older adults are very susceptible to heat illnesses. Other conditions that can make some people more susceptible to heat are obesity, fever, heart disease, mental illness, poor circulation, prescription drug and alcohol use, and sunburn. Heat-related illnesses include heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke (sunstroke). Heat stroke can result in death.

Heat safety tips

  • Reduce, eliminate or reschedule strenuous activities until the coolest part of the day. Anyone with health problems should stay in the coolest available place.
  • Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing to reflect heat and sunlight.
  • Eat cooler foods such as salads and fruit. Meat and other proteins increase metabolic heat and increase water loss.
  • Drink plenty of water, non-alcoholic and decaffeinated drinks.  Even if you don’t feel thirsty, drink plenty of fluids—they help your body keep cool.
  • Don’t get too much sun. Sunburn reduces your body’s ability to lose heat.
  • Don’t take salt tablets unless specified by your physician.
  • Spend more time in air-conditioned places. If you don’t have an air-conditioner, go to a library, store or other location with air conditioning for part of the day.

Resource: Heat: A Major Killer (NWS)


I don’t know about you, but I depend on electricity for nearly everything I do. It powers all sorts of appliances around the house, from the electric fan that blows cooled or heated air throughout the house to the oven used to roast vegetables. Electricity is the power I use to operate the television, charge batteries for laptops and cell phones, and to turn on the lights. Electricity is also the power supply for any special medical equipment. Away from home, we also depend on electricity. Traffic lights, fuel pumps, ATM machines, restaurant kitchens, and store registers operate on electricity.

 Power outages may occur following storms, but they may also be planned (utility work) or a result of an accident. They may be short- or long-term. What will you do if the power is out? Here are a few tips from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).


  • Build your emergency kit and make a family communications plan.
  • Keep your car tank at least half full.
  • Know where the manual release lever of your electric garage opener is located and how to operate it. Will you need help lifting it?
  • Keep a key to your house with you if you regularly use the garage as the primary means of entering your home.
  • Keep an extra propane tank if you have a gas grill. Never use the gas grill indoors.
  • Call your power company if you use a battery-operated wheelchair, life-support system, or other power-dependent medical equipment to learn what options are available to you.
  • Keep a battery-operated talking or Braille clock or oversized timepiece with extra batteries if you have visual disability.
  • Consider a small portable battery-operated television set if you are deaf or have a hearing loss. Emergency broadcasts may give information in American Sign Language (ASL) or open captioning.
  • Plan alternate ways to evacuate if you live in a multi-story apartment building or condominium. Elevators will not work if the power is out.

  • Use flashlights for emergency lighting. Do NOT use candles; they raise your risk of fire.
  • Follow energy conservation measures.
  • Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible. For extended power outages, consider using coolers to store food you will need during the day. Refill the cooler from the refrigerator or freezer at night when the air temperatures are cooler.
  • Fill plastic containers with water and place them in the refrigerator and freezer if there’s room. Leave about an inch of headroom in each one, because water expands as it freezes. Chilled or frozen water will help keep food cold during a temporary power outage.
  • Turn off or disconnect appliances, equipment, or electronics in use when the power went out. Power may return in momentary surges that can damage computers as well as motors in appliances like the air conditioner, refrigerator, washer or furnace.
  • Do not run a generator inside a home or garage. Be sure the generator is adequately ventilated away from the house. Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning can result if the generator is not adequately ventilated. CO is colorless and odorless. It may be hard to gauge your level of exposure. Symptoms typically begin with headaches at about a 10 percent level of CO in your bloodstream. Levels of 50 percent to 70 percent may result in seizure, coma, and death. If you know you have been exposed to CO, have a headache or feel sick, turn off the source, warn others, and consider going to the hospital.
  • Take steps to remain cool or warm, depending on the outside temperatures. Consider going to another location to stay cool or warm.
  • Eliminate unnecessary travel, especially by car. Traffic signals will stop working during an outage.


  • Throw out unsafe food: any refrigerated or frozen food that has been exposed to temperatures 400 for two hours or more or that has an unusual odor, color or texture. When in doubt, throw it out!
  • Decide what you needed that you didn’t have during the blackout and plan for it for the next time the power is out.

We’re well-connected to the power grid most of the time. Plan to conserve energy to help avoid blackouts and be prepared for those times when there is a power outage.


For more information

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