Category: Meet a Delegate Monday

Posted on May 18th, 2015 in Meet a Delegate Monday

National Program Leader Beverly SamuelWe recently interviewed Beverly Samuel, NIFA liaison to EDEN. Beverly is National Program Leader, Housing & Community Living in the Division of Family & Consumer Sciences of USDA NIFA.

Beverly, how did you become involved with EDEN?

I was assigned to work with EDEN as a result of becoming the National Program Leader at USDA NIFA for Housing & Community Living.  Disaster Education is a part of the program portfolio and becoming the Liaison was a natural alliance.  Housing and Community Living programs identify issues, develop solutions, and share promising practices to promote sustainable housing initiatives, safe and affordable housing, air and water quality, energy efficiency, and disaster education.

You’re a National Program Leader (NPL), Housing & Community Living in the Division of Family & Consumer Sciences of USDA NIFA.  What do you do?  

I provide international and national leadership in advancing research, extension, and education. I execute leadership networking through participation on federal task forces including the President’s Taskforce on Environmental Health Risks to Children, Federal Interagency Committee on Indoor Air Quality, Federal Healthy Homes Work Group, and the Federal Radon Action Taskforce.  Collaboration on these taskforces has resulted in developing policy and outreach information that have national impact. I also serve on the Coalition of Organizations for Disaster Education (CODE) and a Federal Emergency Management Agency work group to collaborate around disaster preparedness. I am Chair of the State Energy Extension Partnership (SEEP) and have worked with a team to facilitate connections between USDA NIFA, U.S. Department of Energy and USDA Rural Development through a MOU. The purpose is to promote joint collaboration between State Energy Offices and Cooperative Extension for acceleration of adoption of energy efficiency technology. I am the NIFA Liaison to University of Connecticut for their Plan of Work and Annual Report of Accomplishments and Results for Extension and the Agriculture Experiment Station. I Co-Lead a NIFA Continuous Process Improvement project to streamline the grant award grant process, which is being piloted and will be implemented in FY16.  I provided national leadership in working with Montana State University (MSU) on development of the Master Family & Consumer Sciences Volunteer program, which modeled after the Master Gardeners Program.  I also serve as the NIFA liaison to Energy Specialist, Housing Specialist and EDEN. I manage the Smith Lever Special Needs Grants and secure funding through Interagency Agreements to support for the Healthy Homes Partnership that currently involves eight states in a pilot project. I coordinate with Purdue University for EDEN funding through a Cooperative Agreement for the Food & Agriculture Defense Initiative funding.  I manage capacity projects, which include a number of Multi-State Research Projects. I serve as a liaison to several eXtension Community of Practices. Finally, I work with Visiting Scholars to address critical emerging issues and am currently working with a team on establishing an EDEN model in the Philippines. Most importantly, my work is cross cutting and addresses a variety of critical issues facing families and communities.

What has been your favorite part of being the National Institute of Food and Agriculture Liaison to EDEN?

My favorite part of being the Liaison to EDEN has been visiting sites to see the examples of grant project implementation and attending workshops that highlight the projects. Also, when the Office of Secretary staff traveled to North Dakota recently, I was able to highlight examples of Special Needs grant projects, National EDEN Issue Leaders: Flooding Educational Support led by Ken Hellevang and the Winter Storm App led by Becky Koch.  It is very rewarding to highlight the work that EDEN delegates do.  It is also very rewarding to hear from partners the difference that the funding has made in their communities. Last, I enjoy reading the Final Technical Reports from all of the grant projects. 

In addition to your other work, you are responsible for the Smith-Lever Special Needs Competitive Grants Program.  What advice do you have for delegates interested in applying for 2015 funding?

My advice to delegates interested in applying for this funding is to review the RFA thoroughly and follow closely the suggested guidelines for what should be included in the proposal.  A panel of experts that include EDEN delegates review the grants and make the recommendation for funding.  Matching funding is required from the applicant institution at 100%, even if there is collaboration with others.  There is no exception for this match requirement.   This funding is limited to 1862 land-grant universities, but collaboration may occur with 1890 (Historically Black Colleges), 1994 (Tribal Colleges), and/or Hispanic Serving Institutions.  Projects that have the ability to be scaled up nationally or have a multi-state regional scale are more favorable.  Also, applicants should allow plenty of time for developing the application, including ample time for submitting the application.

From your national perspective, what advice in general do you have for EDEN delegates?

The following are tips that I have for EDEN delegates:

  • Attend the National EDEN Annual Conference. The networking and collaboration that results is invaluable. 
  • Collaborate to make a difference in your state/regionally/and nationally.
  • Maintain your State EDEN website with up-to-date information.
  • Apply for USDA NIFA Smith Lever Special Needs Competitive Grants.
  • Seek other funding opportunities to expand or enhance the work in your state.

Posted on May 4th, 2015 in Meet a Delegate Monday

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

Dr. Kenneth HellevangKen, how did you get involved with EDEN?

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.


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.

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.


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

1. How did you first get involved with EDEN?

I came to work for the University of Missouri disasters education recovery preparednessExtension in January 2004 and because I’m in an emergency management program in extension I was asked to join EDEN as a delegate. But I really did not get involved with EDEN for several years, about five years ago I became much more engaged. Currently I am a member of the Exercise Group and Agrosecurity Committee. I have also been working on a COAD Guidance Manual update that involves University of Illinois and Purdue University, and has been shared with the EDEN membership.

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

I work for two different programs in extension, one of them is a continuing education program. With that I manage training exercises that are specifically emergency management focused. On the other side I manage the community emergency management program, where regional teams throughout the state focus on assisting their communities in phases of the emergency management system. I coordinate that program and provide them with training and resources. On the state level I am a representative for the University of Missouri extension to the state emergency management agency. I am on three of their state committees. I am also on call in case they need additional assistance at the state emergency management agency.

3. Can you tell us a little about the work you are doing with the COAD manual?

I received a grant to work on the COAD Guidance Manual several years ago. Currently I am working to add an agriculture annex to the manual. I hope this will be helpful to people across the nation because when we have disasters in rural areas it seems that they seem to have the least amount of ability to recover. This is because they are living in a sparse area, and sometimes it is difficult to get them assistance. So this manual will cover how a community can help our rural areas more easily recover from some kind of disaster. I’m hoping the agriculture annex we are putting into the COAD manual will benefit a lot of people.

4. What has been your favorite disaster preparedness exercise and why?

My favorite exercises are the 12 exercises associated with Part 2 of the COAD Guidance Manual Project. Twelve local COADs signed up for the exercise and devoted several hours discussing their capabilities to assist their communities during a disaster. It was very fascinating to see the difference in organizational structures, what they had to offer, and how they would use the COADs. I think it gave me a much better idea about how COADs can really fit into a community. Before this I did not see how communities had engaged COADs as much as possible. I think this project really started getting more of them engaged.

5. What is your biggest piece of advice to other EDEN delegates?

Become engaged with the organization! If you just sit on the sidelines you get emails with all kinds of opportunities. Once you get more known in the organization you gain some credibility and validity. They are always looking for someone that has expertise in certain areas. I believe that if we are going to be a part of an organization we need to be able to offer the expertise and experiences we have, so we can help the organization as a whole. It helps educate all of our members, get engaged!


Posted on February 16th, 2015 in Meet a Delegate Monday

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

1. How did you first get involved with EDEN?

ratterbeI spent 30 years in commercial broadcasting; we were a full service station, so we were always heavily involved when severe weather or a disaster happened. When I left there I was asked to become the public information officer for the County Emergency Management Agency as a volunteer. I did this while I was working at the university. After a few years, extension administrators who had been the EDEN Point of Contact had taken on additional duties, so I was asked to become the new EDEN PoC about 12 years ago and I’ve been doing that ever since.

2. Can you explain a little about your role for disaster preparedness and recovery in your state?

I am currently wearing two hats in this aspect, the public information officer, and under Illinois state law, when the emergency management agency is activated state employees (such as university employees) are allowed basically “unlimited” leave time, as long as the activation continues to fulfill their volunteer roles. So I do that a lot with any disaster that occurs. On the extension side, it’s a multi-level thing, we work to support the local extension offices even in terms of their own safety. In fact we’re working with them to re-write the office disaster manuals for the state right now. I also teach, through extension, the ready business course, the continuity of operations course that we have available and do some other general education of overall preparedness, speak to scout groups, and other groups like that. Locally, I am the co-chair of a mutual aid group for public information officers.

3. What do you consider to be the most significant accomplishment during your tenure as EDEN chair?

I think really just staying out of the way and encouraging the delegates to continue their good work. Nothing happens without the delegates. I think the thing that is best about EDEN is that for almost everyone of the 300 and some delegates, this disaster education and recovery work is something they volunteered to do. It is something they are passionate about. In a lot of cases this is not even in their job description, they just enjoy EDEN. Working with those dedicated people, trying to make sure they have the resources to do everything necessary is something that I really made a focus. Each state does things differently, and recognizing that as one of the great things about EDEN is the flexibility that each state, the local extension offices can do what best serves their community.

4. What has been your favorite part about writing #WeatherWednesdays?

Writing those posts has been a lot of fun. It provides me with an outlet for writing, which I enjoy doing very much. I’m kind of a weather geek anyway, so it’s a way for me to spread the word. I have purposefully delayed writing some until we can see how the weather plays out, or how it does not play out. In a previous one, I focused on how difficult it is to precisely forecast winter storms. I also enjoy defining what certain terms are: such as a blizzard, people think you have to have a whole bunch of snow to have a blizzard, actually the amount of snow is not part of the definition at all. It comes down to wind speed and visibility issues. I enjoy educating people about all parts of disaster, including weather.

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.

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.

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 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.