We recently interviewed Dr. Kenneth Hellevang, EDEN delegate from North Dakota State University. Ken is an extension engineer, professor, and Fellow, American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers
I had been working with preparation for and recovering from flooding in North Dakota and Northwestern Minnesota with a primary focus on the engineering aspects and mold. In the early development of eXtension, EDEN as a Community of Practice identified flooding as their initial topic for eXtension. EDEN identified and recruited a team to development educational material on flooding. I agreed to serve as chair of the team which included Carol Lehtola, the University of Florida; Shirley Niemeyer, University of Nebraska – Lincoln; and Joe Ponessa, Rutgers University. Claudette Reichel, Louisiana, was initially recruited to be on the team, but had to focus on local needs after hurricane Katrina.
What is your disaster preparedness role in North Dakota?
I am part of an informal disaster education team led by Becky Koch, North Dakota EDEN Point Of Contact. Our team has developed a disaster preparedness recommended practice document for each extension office. Unfortunately, with disaster education only an extremely minor aspect of every team member’s responsibility, a limited amount is done related to disaster preparedness and most of our effort is related to preparation for imminent disasters or in response to disasters.
How well does that fit with your other Extension responsibilities?
My Extension responsibilities are about 70% on grain drying and storage, about 25% related to structures including both farmstead and residential structures, and about 5% related to energy and the bio-industry. Disaster education is a minor aspect of the structures part of my responsibility. It fits, but due to the multitude of other responsibilities, it is only a focus area due to a disaster.
What advice to you have for new EDEN delegates?
I encourage them to become involved, network and volunteer for projects. The relationships that are developed through involvement become the foundation for professional growth and creating a group of people who you feel comfortable contacting.
Any final comments for our readers?
Flooding occurs somewhere every year and if we are going to provide people with the resources they need, we need to continually be updating the material. Unfortunately, there seems to be a small group of people who have developed expertise related to disasters and they are involved in whatever is the most critical disaster at the time. I encourage people who have an interest to develop a specialist level of expertise and become involved with the national need to keep resources updated and a serve as resource that Extension staff across the country can contact as they are facing their local disasters.