ARDVARC – A New Way of Helping Small Farmers When Disaster Strikes

We have a lot to learn from disasters. 2017 was no different. We gained knowledge that will alter the lives of farmers and food production for generations to come.
 
Along with lives, buildings, and businesses, Hurricane Irma put Florida’s entire agriculture production at risk. When our team traveled there in the days after Irma devastated much of the state, we found a resilient, proud, and hard working group of small farmers devoted to their profession and traditions.
 
Farmers and ranchers are a unique breed, especially those who own and live off the production of land that’s been in their family for decades. They are fiercely independent. But, they create an exquisite synergy with other family farms in times of crisis. These tight knit communities are strongest when times are tough. They help each other. They bind together to help one or many when disaster strikes. They are decent, genuine people not because they have to be, but because that is just their way. Lacking pretense or vanity, they don’t have time for drama.
 
Yet, as hard as they work and struggle together in catastrophes, they still need our assistance, as best we can give it. That’s why we came up with ARDVARC. More on that later.
 
Upon our return to homebase in Asheville, NC, we were invited to present at “Creating Hope,” the Annual Conference of the Consortium for Humanitarian Service & Education (CHSE). Held at the University of North Carolina Asheville, the academic conference focuses on consortium faculty, staff, and students, and on the broader emergency and international humanitarian response community.

Anthony Coggiola, CEO of C3L Associates discusses his team’s findings at CHSE’s Annual Creating Hope Conference at the University of North Carolina Asheville. 

 
CHSE is a partnership of universities, individuals, and organizations collaborating to offer high quality training and education within the fields of emergency management and humanitarian response. (A full list of Conference Presenters is listed at the end of this article.) The Creating HOPE Conference brought together practitioners, academics, and students from a variety of emergency response, humanitarian aid, conflict study, and disaster management disciplines to exchange ideas, best practices, and key knowledge regarding their fields, and to learn more about some of the challenges facing the emergency and international humanitarian response community.
 
Participants also had the opportunity to contribute to the planning of Atlantic Hope 2018. Atlantic Hope is a civilian-designed and civilian-led exercise that recreates the challenges and conditions international humanitarian relief workers encounter in the real world.
 
Our role in Creating Hope was to present what we learned during our time in Florida after Hurricane Irma and the concept of ARDVARC.
 
What Is ARDVARC?

Developed by C3L Associates, ARDVARC – the Agriculture & Rural Disaster Volunteer Assessment and Response Corps – provides an effective volunteer program designed specifically for planning, recruiting, and responding to urgent situations in rural and agricultural communities. ARDVARC exists to fit the unique disaster preparedness and response capabilities, strengths, and challenges of large geographic areas with small populations, strong farming and ranching, and various other agricultural industries.

Through ARDVARC, trained communities of volunteers, who are ready and willing to assist neighbors and people located in remote areas, respond immediately in the event of a natural disaster. Using the latest technology and a customized mobile App,ARDVARC is adaptable and scalable to the exact requirements of any area.ARDVARC can be large and complex, small and simple, or anything in between. It is completely based on a community’s needs and wants. Whatever form it takes, disaster preparedness and response are at the center of all ARDVARC‘s exclusive protocols.

Alex Rohlwing, of C3L Associates discusses ARDVARC’s structure and scope at CHSE’s Annual Creating Hope Conference at the University of North Carolina Asheville.

How does ARDVARC fill the gap?
Natural disasters: tornadoes, hurricanes, fires, floods, severe snowstorms, and droughts can affect large areas quickly or slowly over time, with little warning, and significant impact. These disasters threaten lives and livelihoods. While numerous regions across America have various volunteer and professional first responders capable of helping during these disasters, the majority of them concentrate in urban areas, cities, large towns, or industrial centers. Rural areas are frequently overlooked. Further, the volunteer coordination programs available to them are generally more practical in urban centers as most were designed for dense population response.

Ultimately, when a disaster strikes all agriculturalists, large and small, will benefit from an organized group of volunteers, trained and willing to help with the tools to communicate, assess damage, and coordinate an effective response. ARDVARC provides this system  beginning with the knowledge that each community has its own characteristics and needs and then customizes a platform to fill those specific needs. C3L Associates has designed ARDVARC to be adaptable, scalable, and – most importantly – effective.

Raymond Bechard, of C3L Associates discusses ARDVARC’s online applications at CHSE’s Annual Creating Hope Conference at the University of North Carolina Asheville.

How will the ARDVARC Mobile App work?
Collecting information about the effects of disasters is always challenging and slow. The idea for the ARDVARC Mobile App sprang from our experience in Florida which resulted in hard-copy and online disaster assessment forms developed by C3L Associates.

C3L is creating the ARDVARC App to improve this process, especially in overlooked, remote rural and agricultural communities that are difficult to assess across wide geographic areas. The App will allow farmers, ranchers, or anyone to upload damage assessments of their own farm, ranch, or home. It can also be used by an ARDVARC team performing onsite damage assessments.
 
This information then generates a damage assessment map. The resulting map allows responders to most effectively deploy where the greatest needs are, or to places overlooked by other response resources.
 
The ARDVARC App will include other critical features as well. It provides a system for communication among ARDVARC team members. They can signal their readiness to respond and show what resources they have, or they can request assistance for themselves or others in their area. The App also shows areas around the US experiencing disaster-related needs. This means other ARDVARC teams have the option to communicate with and deploy to help teams in other parts of the country if needed.
 
Ultimately, the ARDVARC App will its own community of responders. Fast, reliable communication in a disaster is imperative, as is a sense of community. There are many people across America who want to help, and many who lend a hand to their neighbors during and after disasters. But what if those people could help neighbors they did not know? What if they had the option of lending a hand to someone in need just one county over or on the other side of town? The ARDVARC App will let us all do more to help those around us, and allows others to help when we need it most.
 
Quite simply, ARDVARC creates new neighborhoods and new neighbors, ready, willing, trained, and able to stand beside them in the worst of times.
 
For more detailed information on ARDVARC, or to begin the process of creating an ARDVARC Program in your community, including how C3L Associates can help with customized guidance and instructional materials, please contact C3L here or visit ARDVARC.org.
 
Our thanks to the Consortium for Humanitarian Service & Education (CHSE) and the University of North Carolina Asheville for making C3L Associates a part of Creating Hope. Here is a look at this very powerful conference.
 
We began the day with Opening Remarks and an Introduction & Overview of CHSE by Dr. Mark Corson, CHSE Board President.
 
A Presentation & Discussion, “Lessons Learned from Hurricane Irma: University Emergency Preparedness and Response Best Practices,” was given by Dr. Evan Berry, Dean of Public Service Education, Treasure Coast Public Safety Training Complex at Indian River State College (IRSC).
 
David Weldon, Director of Emergency Management, UNC Asheville, provided “An Overview of Emergency Preparedness and Response Efforts at UNC Asheville.”
 
Dr. Christopher M. Godfrey, Department of Atmospheric Sciences, UNC Asheville, introduced the topic, “Addressing Interconnections between the Built and Natural Environments through Post- Event Damage Surveys.”
 
“The Importance of Institutional Support and Collaboration in Training Exercises,” was presented by
Debby Woglom, Nurse Education Program, Elmira College.
 
An informative Panel Discussion focusing on, “Current National & International Events and Their Impact on Emergency Response and Humanitarian Relief Training” was held featuring:
David Weldon, UNC Asheville
Chris Sacco, Emergency Response and Recovery, CRS
• Moderator: Elizabeth Porter, Department of Economics, UNC Asheville
 
Dr. Elizabeth Porter closed out the conference with concluding remarks and plans for the future.