Meet a Delegate Monday: Andy Vestal

Michelle Bufkin, AU Agriculture Communications Student/EDEN Community of Practice Social Media Assistant, recently interviewed EDEN delegate Dr. Andy Vestal, who will have a breakout session at the EDEN Annual Meeting. 

1. How did you first get involved with EDEN? Dr. Andy Vestal

I got involved in EDEN about a month before Hurricane Katrina, in July of 2005. I was immediately led to the effort because of a six-year grant for animal disease and homeland security response and recovery. Within a month of being in this position, Hurricane Katrina hit followed by Hurricane Rita, and we realized we had a lot to do preparedness-wise. The fall of 2005 was my first visit to the EDEN Annual Meeting in Fargo, North Dakota. It was an experience for me to see the overall mission and goals of the organization: to help people help themselves.

2. Without divulging too much of your annual meeting material, can you tell us how the strike teams were formed?

After any incident an after action report is filed. After [Hurricane] Ike the report stated there was high priority to establish mission ready teams of seasoned County Extension Agents, CEA, that were deployable. The first teams were established in the Gulf Coast, where 7 million Texans live.

3. What are some of the disasters that have affected Texas over the past few years and how have you been involved?

In 2008 when Hurricane Ike hit us it was a challenge; 32,000 families lost their homes along with a large agricultural loss. Hurricane Ike, though only a category 2 hurricane, was about 450 miles wide. It pushed an 18 foot wall of water 20 miles inland, covering mostly ranchland that had about 35,000 head of cattle. We realized that within 72 hours the cattle would have saline toxicity, because all they had to drink was salt water. We deployed our strike teams to create Livestock Supply Points, LSP’s, and from September 13 to 30 we received and distributed over 125 semi-truck loads of feed and hay. By week 3, we started shipping about 15,000 head of cattle into other parts of the state.

In 2011 every geographic region of Texas had challenges with wildfires; there were over 32,000 in the state, and dozens were 50,000 acres or greater; over 3 million acres burnt. Our Livestock Supply Points and CEA strike teams were again activated to stand up 13 LSP’s. Our goal was not to put out fires, but to help landowners with displaced livestock. We received and distributed approximately 120 semi-truck loads of hay and feed. We were much better prepared, because we had about 50 County Extension Agents that were seasoned, trained, and mission ready.

4. What has been the most rewarding thing you have done in terms of disaster preparedness for your state?

The Hurricane Ike recovery, “Operation No Fences” on YouTube shows the land and livestock owners response, along with county agents and other volunteer organizations. The support we built for them was rewarding to our county extension agents because we had farmers and ranchers that had lost everything. To find that we had a mobilized team supporting them was unexpected, but extremely helpful. We estimate we saved the USDA indemnity program more than $10 million by shipping cattle out, since it saved their lives, and it costs about $600 a head to bury cattle. Also about 80% of the cattle shipped out had brands and/or ear tags; we had brand inspectors to help identify the rightful owners. Through these efforts we were able to maintain the strong fabric of the local agricultural economy in that area.

5. Have you worked on any multi-state projects through EDEN and what have those been?

I have had two major multi-state projects through EDEN. Both were funded by the Department of Homeland Security, DHS, at Texas A&M. The goal of the first was to strengthen crisis communications. We adopted the Association for Communication Excellence, ACE, group’s curriculum called “Media Relations Made Easy.” We incorporated an animal disease issue scenario into the training and partnered with multiple land grant universities to host a series of six workshops using that curriculum. We had about 180 Ag communicators from 29 states and Canada attend.

The second project was partnering with 22 state veterinarians and extension programs to test and establish an animal health network in those states. This program is still up and running. The mission of that project was to improve upon the state veterinarian’s capability to have early detection and rapid response to animal diseases, especially in smaller, hobby farms.

6. What do you think is the most important thing EDEN delegates can do to help the citizens in their states?

Learn from other state’s experiences. There’s a lot of different material and experiences that states can learn from each other. When we learn from each other we may reinvent something we learned from Washington State to fit our state, but the fact that we have guidance is extremely valuable.

If you haven’t yet registered for 2014 EDEN Annual Meeting, follow this link to register.

 

Meet a Delegate Monday: Mike Yoder

Michelle Bufkin, AU Agriculture Communications Student/EDEN Community of Practice Social Media Assistant, recently interviewed EDEN Delegate Dr. Mike Yoder (North Carolina). Mike assumes EDEN Chair duties at the conclusion of the 2014 EDEN meeting.

Dr. Mike Yoder1. How did you first get involved with EDEN?
I was given the opportunity by North Carolina State University’s Point of Contact (POC) with EDEN, Dr. Ed Jones, to attend an EDEN annual meeting in Indianapolis. That was my introduction to EDEN, from that I became very interested in the work that EDEN and how the extension specialists from NCSU could interact with EDEN and both benefit from it.

2. What has been your favorite part of working with EDEN?
The people! Terrific people, that are very passionate and dedicated to the mission of EDEN and to improving and protecting the lives of the people in their states. You could not ask for a better group of people to work with.

I think that EDEN is one of the best kept secrets in the country, but I think we have a great deal more to offer than people know at this point. I would tell people to get involved, expand their own networks through EDEN and see what they could contribute to the organization.

3. You were the program chair for the 2013 EDEN Annual Meeting, can you tell us a little about what that entailed?
It’s always a challenge to put together a meeting that is informative and that challenges our delegates. That was the first meeting I was the program chair for, so there was a big learning curve with figuring out what types of information people want. But there was a great committee to help with that; they helped identify speakers and topics and helped define the order of the program. They made the task much easier to accomplish. It was a great experience, and hopefully this years program, which will be my second, will be even more challenging and informative for our delegates that come to the 2013 EDEN Annual Meetingmeeting.

4. What was your favorite part of the annual meeting last year?
I have to say that my favorite part of any meeting is the time I get to spend with the people in the organization, and that is especially true with EDEN. Whether that time is spent at one of the meals we eat together or a pre-conference gathering we have where we can catch up with each other and discuss interests and projects. It’s just always a good time.

5. Since you helped with the meeting last year do you have any advice or words of wisdom you would like to give to people planning on attending the meeting this year?
I think we have a great set of presenters lined up, and that includes the papers people have submitted and our keystone and capstone speakers that will make it very enlightening and challenge the organization. So I would say, come prepared to enjoy the time with the delegates, and to learn from the sessions we have prepared.

Registration for the 2014 meeting is now open!

6. What are you most looking forward to at this years annual meeting?
This is going to be repetitive, but again it’s the opportunity to network within the organization. And then also I’m looking forward to the papers that will be presented; to see what people have been up to, what kind of projects they are working on, and what progress has been made on those projects.

We hope to see you in Florence, Alabama.

EDEN Welcomes Third Partner

In October 2012, the Extension Disaster Education Network (EDEN) welcomed the National Disaster Preparedness Training Center (NDPTC) as its newest partner.

NDPTC is a Department of Homeland Security (DHS)/Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) training partner dedicated to providing critical all-hazards training throughout the United States and its territories with an emphasis on natural hazards and island and coastal communities.

NDPTC Director Karl Kim said, “We are delighted to partner with EDEN and look forward to working together on

NDPTC Director Karl Kim
Karl Kim

the development and delivery of training and educational programs to help build and sustain resilient communities. EDEN members can take many different roles, from hosting courses, to becoming instructors and participating in train-the-trainer programs, and helping to evaluate and improve our training courses. You can find out more about on-going efforts at our website: ndptc.hawaii.edu.”

Signing the partnership agreement on behalf of EDEN, then Chair Virginia Morgan White said, “This is a wonderful partnership that will benefit both parties. NDPTC has FEMA-certified courses and well-qualified instructors. As a nation-wide network of Extension educators, we are located throughout areas targeted by the NDPTC courses. Together, we can expand our reach and help enhance the disaster resilience of coastal communities.”

Instructors Dolan Eversole and Dennis Hwang presented a sample of the center’s offerings at the EDEN annual meeting in Tunica, Mississippi. Attendees participated in an abbreviated version of the FEMA-certified course, Coastal Community Resilience. A complete course schedule is available on the NDPTC website.

NDPTC representative Dolan Eversole, left, looks on as Virginia White and Rick Atterberry sign the agreement
NDPTC representative Dolan Eversole, left, looks on as Virginia White and Rick Atterberry sign the agreement

NDPTC is the second member of the National Domestic Preparedness Consortium to partner with EDEN. In February 2012, EDEN signed a partnership agreement with the National Center for Biomedical Research and Training (NCBRT).