As we move forward and recover from both wildfires and the recent flooding that occurred this fall (2013), many have had to evacuate their horses and have faced disaster first hand. For those that did, how prepared were you for the care and wellbeing of your animals? Did things go smoothly? Or were there some things that needed to be done differently? Several years ago Dr. Landes gave a presentation on disaster preparedness. Here is a brief outline of the pertinent points of the presentation.
- Before a disaster occurs look at your location- Where is the best shelter? Might trees be a problem? Is there a well fenced pasture? Are there overhead lines or trees that might blow over? Plan an escape route- Which way is the best escape route? Alternative escape route if the main route is blocked?
- Create and maintain a “horse box”. Place tack, ropes, halters, concentrate feeds, hay, supplements, medicines, Coggins tests, vaccination records, brand papers, copy of registration papers, buckets, feed nets, garden hose, flashlight, lantern, headlamp, blankets, tarps, portable radio, spare batteries, first aid kit in one location.
- Identify facilities, resources, friends, and/or family -15-40 miles away from site that might accommodate your horse(s). Leave a list in your barn of emergency numbers on a clip board or some other obvious place for emergency personnel to find.
- Have access to a functional and safe horse or stock trailer. Have a full tank of gas- keep truck filled up that will pull the trailer. Practice loading- in the heat of the event you certainly do not want it to be the first time!
- Temporary identification tags or livestock marker—luggage tags or dog tags can be attached to halters, neck bands, or livestock markers. Prioritize evacuation- if you do not have enough room for all you horses, think of which ones will be first.
- Monitor television and/or radio stations- Listen to emergency information. Watch weather forecasts.
- Cash – have some accessible cash to buy supplies for yourself and your horses.
- Hay supply- have enough hay for several days
- Clean up kit- rake, gloves, saw, shovels
- Practice your plan –See how long it really takes to load up all your animals and move to a safe location.
- When the disaster strikes-evacuate early- if you know well enough of ahead of time, leave as early as possible. Develop a Buddy System- tell your neighbors and friends that you have evacuated. Contact your emergency contact person.
- Remain Calm- it does not do you or your horse any good to be frantic. If you have practiced your plan you can concentrate on what is next.
- Follow your Plan- this will give you a guide to follow, give you a sense of control.
- After the disaster is over- Inspect your premises: down power lines, flooded areas, gas, utility leaks, and bad roads. Be aware of vandals, looters, debris. Clean up debris, identify and take possession of your horses if they are not with you and have been evacuated by someone else, have your ownership documents ready. Check with your veterinarian of potential disease risks and treat wounds and injuries.