It seems that no area in the United States is safe from some type of catastrophic event. Whether it be hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, or winter storms, most areas are subject to at least one, if not all types of disasters. Of course, the peril of fire exists in all areas.
- Keep debris clear of barns and from under trees. Debris can include manure and bedding that you may have used for mulch. Proper trimming and pruning of trees can make a difference. Do not let branches touch or hang over buildings.
- Keep fire-fighting equipment and supplies in working order. Make sure fire extinguishers are in each dwelling and outbuilding, and are fully charged. Extinguishers should be checked every 12 months for proper charge.
- Inspect all electrical systems every three months for the following:
Service boxes should be kept dry and dust free. They should be mounted at least five feet off the ground on fire-resistant materials; Electrical fixtures should be free of dust, dirt, cobwebs, hay, and other combustible materials; Never use an extension cord as an electrical line on a permanent basis. Additional lines should be installed by a licensed electrician and conform to local and/or state electrical codes.
- Water mains, pipes and/or contamination of water could occur. Have an emergency supply plan?enough water for 72 hours: 5 gallons per each horse, 1 gallon per person. Advance notice for hurricane and floods allows you to prepare. Keep large, 60-gallon containers for storage of water. Fill them up with fresh water during warnings and keep in a secure place. Have water purification tablets on hand.
- Most disasters can cause all electrical supply to be cut off for days. Consider a generator for refrigeration, cooling, heating and lights. Store fuel for generator away from outbuildings and dwelling. Keep a supply of flashlight batteries.
- Keep two first-aid kits stocked, one for humans and one for horses. Ask your veterinarian for suggestions on a first-aid kit.
- Have a current list of the horses on the farm. Identify the following:
What paddock and stall they are in; Who are the owners, who are the agents/contact person; Written procedures on what is to be said to the owners/agents in a disaster; List regular veterinarians for horses with potential back-up. Make sure you have phone reminders where you can reach them; Create a script and follow it during a disaster.
- During a disaster, it is not unusual for horses to be unwilling to leave their stalls or corrals. If fire or smoke is a danger to them, they must be led out and placed in a secured area. Be able to lead your horses out to a paddock during a fire emergency. Stay as calm as possible. Place them as far away from the fire as possible. Plan out an emergency evacuation and practice it.
- Emergencies do occur at night. Do practice an evacuation drill at night with your horses. Use flashlights so your horses will become used to them. Remain calm as horses will react to panic and fear. Practice moving your horse to a safe area, simulating a fire drill.
- Keep an inventory of your horse equipment, halters, saddles, bridles, etc. Take pictures and keep them in a secure place other than the barn where they are kept.
- Arrange in advance a safe location for your horses to be boarded if your property becomes unsafe after a disaster strikes. Know ahead of time arrangements for your horses to be transported.
- If a warning is posted (hurricane, tornado, winter storm), make sure all horses are secured in an outbuilding and are identified with halters, neck straps, or names spray-painted on the horses' left side.
- A change in normal feed cycle and material can make your horse sick, particularly in stressful situations. That is why it is important to keep an adequate supply of feed on hand for emergencies. Keep at least 72 hours' worth.
- Keep a closet stocked with supplies for your family. Supplies should include flashlights, batteries, toiletries, paper plates, napkins, wipes, plastic utensils, and food supply for one week. Consider mainly canned goods that do not require cooking, Gatorade or bottled juices. Rotate goods every six months, or as needed.
- Fire is the largest cause of loss for horse farms. Arrange a fire inspection by your local fire department. Most fire departments would be pleased to come out to your farm before a fire occurs. Suggestions they make will result in a safer farm and may justify a reduction in your insurance premiums.
Information courtesy of American Reliable Insurance Company and American Bankers Insurance Company of Florida.