SNA Disaster Relief Committee Uses Technology to Help “Battered and Tattered”

October 17, 2008 - 09:46

On the heels of a destructive hurricane season – in which many industry professionals in the Atlantic and Gulf Coast states were “battered and tattered” — the Southern Nursery Association’s (SNA) Disaster Relief Committee has been busy keeping members informed and coordinating resources.

The committee, established in 2005 as a response to Hurricane Katrina, uses an online forum to help those left in the wake of natural disasters. The forum is hosted on the SNA website.

Messages ranging from “we’re alright” to “I have an available generator” help the horticulture community stay connected and help one another through difficult times.

The committee cites communication as the primary need directly following a natural disaster and has implemented several initiatives to address that need, including satellite phones and the disaster relief forum.

A critical part of the Disaster Relief Committee is the emergency response team, which is made up of industry professionals who are not growers. “When a disaster hits, the nursery operators need to be able to take care of their operations,” said Committee Chairman Andy Zimlich. “Therefore our emergency team is made up of industry vendors and not growers.”

The team members cover the geographic area spanning from North Carolina to the tip of Florida and west to the Texas border.

Even before disaster strikes, committee members are preparing, Zimlich added. In anticipation of a natural disaster, satellite phones are sent via UPS to nursery operations expected to be hit so communication stays fluid. Once committee members know exact needs, the disaster relief forum broadcasts those needs to the online community who responds with available generators, supplies and even labor.

“After Katrina in 2005, so many people were graciously sending us food and supplies,” said Randy Bracy, owner of Bracy's Nursery in Amite, La., which witnessed the devastation first hand. “We were overcome by the outpour of support, but what we needed to get things moving again were fuel and generators. But we had no way to communicate those needs.”

Now, through the use of satellite phones and the disaster relief forum, committee members are able to communicate specific needs. The disaster relief forum is available for anyone who wants to communicate or stay informed following a natural disaster.

“After Hurricane Ike hit Texas, we offered the forum to the Texas Nursery and Landscape Association,” Zimlich said. Any state or local association who needs to use the forum is welcome to do so.

According to the Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory (AOML), the Atlantic hurricane season is officially June 1 to Nov. 30. June has been the traditional start of the Atlantic hurricane season for decades. However, the end date has shifted outward from Oct. 31 to Nov. 15 to its current date of Nov. 30, stated the AOML. Peak hurricane season for the Atlantic coast is from August through October with maximum storm activity in early to mid-September.

Although the disaster relief forum has been buzzing from the 2008 hurricane season, the SNA Disaster Relief Committee and forum are set up to aid with any natural disaster, including floods, freezes and more.

For more information about the disaster relief forum or the SNA Industry Disaster Preparedness Program, please visit www.sna.org.

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