A barn fire is something we hope we never have to contend with. Loss of equine life is unthinkable and devastating, but it can be preventable with the right evacuation plan in place.

To get started, the experts at Equine Guelph have compiled a list of questions that every stable owner and rider needs to answer:

  • Would you know what to do if you were the person in the barn when a disaster occurred?
  • Does your barn have a posted and practiced Emergency Action Plan (EAP)?
  • Are emergency numbers listed? Do you know who to call and the information to give them?
  • Do you already have a relationship with your fire department, and have they paid a visit to help you identify all the resources and potential hazards on your farm?
  • What evacuation plan makes the most sense for your facility?

On March 8-15, Equine Guelph will offer a fire and emergency preparedness course via their Horse Portal for $85, as well as free online tools that can help you, including interactive barn fire tools.

For the last question, “what makes sense for your facility?” Equine Guelph, in partnership with Workplace Safety & Prevention Services, have designed a set of easy-to-read infographics that you can download here  and post in your stable in plain view of staff and clients. These plans should be adjusted according to how many horses are in the barn and how many people you have on hand to help in case of an emergency.

It is also recommended that barn managers hold a group meeting to discuss what the evacuation plan is should the worst occur.

Option 1 of the evacuation plan.

The new infographics provide two options for barns with stall doors that open to a centre aisle, a common architectural feature in Canadian equestrian stables. Option 1 is a “run out lane from centre aisle.” This escape plan calls for one end of the barn to be closed while all horses are released and encouraged to run down the aisle and outside to an open paddock gate.

Option 2 is called “leading and handing off to an enclosed paddock.” This plan is exactly as it sounds and requires each horse to be haltered and lead by one person, then to the second person and third as required until all animals are safely led and released into paddock. The gate is closed and the procedure is repeated until each horse is evacuated.

There are also two infographic options for barns with stalls that open to the outside. In this scenario it’s recommended that the barn doors are secured shut and horses are released from their stalls to the outside and encouraged into a paddock where they can be safely enclosed. In the second option, the horses are haltered and lead out of each stall with one person handing the animal to the next to be lead to the paddock and closed safely inside. This “relay” is repeated for each horse.

Make a plan, practice it, and be safe!