Fire – Part 2: Evacuation Action Plan

Thorse evacuation voiceofthehorsehis is Part 2 of our two-part week on barn fires.  Tuesday offered suggestions on how to lower your risk for a barn fire.  But sometimes no matter how careful you are, a fire may develop in your area.  What do you do now to prepare?
Have an evacuation plan. Don’t THINK about having a plan – HAVE A PLAN! And implement it as soon as law enforcement issues a RECOMMENDED evacuation for your area.  Do NOT wait until evacuation is required – by then it can be too late and you can get caught in the fire yourself.  Leaving early can also help avoid road congestion, making it easier for emergency vehicles to get in and out.
In your emergency plan, be sure to answer all these questions. And then make sure everyone knows who is responsible for what.  This is critical.
? Who will do what, where will horses go, what about hay and feed, how will you i.d. your horses later?
? How will you monitor the situation – TV, radio, social media? Who is most likely to have the most up to date information? Social media is great, but they may not have all the information such as road closures, evacuation centers, etc.
? Who is responsible for relaying the information to horse owners or others associated with your barn? How will you communicate this?                    
? Will owners be required to come in and take care of their own horses or will the barn manager take responsibility as the lead on decisions.
? What are the options for evacuation? A barn fire may just necessitate moving horses to a faraway pasture. Larger disasters may mean moving several miles away. Is everyone going together? Who decides who goes where?
? Who has trailers, how many horses can each haul, how is most likely to be able to get to the barn quickly, can others haul someone’s trailer if the owner is not available?
? Will you take feed and supplies for all horses or are owners responsible for getting their own feed. What about medications
? Will someone be responsible for taking tack, water/feed buckets, etc?
? Do you have an emergency supply of halters and lead ropes stored somewhere for easy access. Even if you normally keep your horse’s halter close by, in all the chaos of evacuation you may find your halter/lead missing.
If your horse isn’t routinely trailered, practice, practice, and practice so that he loads easily and quickly. A fire isn’t the time to learn your horse isn’t a good loader.
Look at the tough decisions. What will you do if you can’t take your horses? It may be better to put on a break-away halter with your i.d. and turn them loose. They will do their best to survive. Don’t tie them up or leave them in a stall and hope someone will come and rescue them.
There are several ways you can keep your horse i.d. to be returned to you. I use an engraveable dog tag from the pet store – many are now engraveable on both sides. I put all my contact information and attach it to my horse’s halter. Or write your phone number in indelible ink or paint on your horse’s hooves. Or, write your contact information and seal in a waterproof bag. Braid or tie it into your horse’s mane.
Once all your horses are out, if there is still time and you can safely do so, doing these tasks can help keep the fire from spreading throughout your barn:
  • Close all windows and doors around your home to prevent sparks from blowing inside.
  • Close all doors within the house to slow fire spread inside the house.
  • Turn on the lights in all rooms of your house, on the porch, and in the yard. Your home will be more visible through the smoke or darkness.
  • Move furniture away from windows and sliding glass doors to avoid ignition from the radiant heat of the fire.

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