Equestrians are passionate individuals and would do anything for their equine friends. Although many would rather not think about a worst case scenario that could impact their animals or facility, accidents and emergencies can and do happen, despite our best efforts. From barn fires to natural disasters, emergency situations require special measures of protection and care for livestock and equestrians.
Types of emergencies can vary based on location and livestock. A few of the most common ones include:
- Weather related: floods, winter storms, extreme temperatures
- Paddock injuries: caught in fencing, running and step in ground hog hole for example
- Sickness: injuries or fatalities
- Structure: loss of services and equipment: fires, power outages, chemical spills, etc.
If you own a farm with livestock, there are many things you can do to minimize any losses and get back to work as soon as possible after a disaster or emergency. Therefore, it is critical to have a plan and know how to respond appropriately in any situation that can affect you and your animals.
Firstly, many precautions can be taken to prevent an emergency from occurring in the first place or to be better prepared in general. Smoke alarms should be inspected regularly and even putting and alarm outside would help in situations where no one is in the barn. Perform regular safety inspections on all utilities, buildings and facilities to ensure there are no damages or repairs needed. Also secure or eliminate anything that can become blowing debris such as trees, equipment or other large objects outside the barn. Inside, barn doors, aisles doorways and walkways should be kept clear of obstacles and other obstructions. These procedures can help reduce the potential of emergencies and their effects as well.
Preparing resources and identifying sources of aid before the emergency saves valuable time and energy. During a severe situation, you do not want to worry about not having the right materials and resources available. Specifically, first aid kits for horses are essential in barns as it seems like horses are constantly receiving injuries of some kind. These kits should be monitored and maintained on a regular basis. There are countless supplies you can have in your horse’s kit; however there are a few necessities such as:
- Safety scissors
- Self sticking bandages such as Vetrap™
- Gauze squares and bandages
- Antiseptic wound cream
- Hydrogen peroxide
- Saline solution (for cleaning around delicate areas)
- Forceps or tweezers
- Flash light
- Hoof pick
- Rubbing alcohol
- Latex gloves
- Vaseline or other kind of lubricating jelly
- * For the paddock: wire cutters, hammer, saw, pliers, nails
And of course, a first aid kit for people should be visible in the barn and made aware of to all who work in or enter the facility. You can buy these kits pre-assembled but make sure you also include: tweezers, medical tape and antibiotic cream. By having these kits stocked and ready at all times can significantly help you be more prepared in an emergency situation.
Additionally, post emergency information, numbers and guidelines near all doors and ensure everyone who works in or near the barn knows the location. Also having a stored supply of food and water as well as other necessary supplies for your family and livestock for at least 72 hours can be crucial in more serious situations where you may be stranded for a long period of time.
During an emergency such as a weather disaster, a resourceful piece of equipment to have on the farm is a generator. This will help keep things from completely falling apart if you were to lose power at any point. Having a back up source of power can be life saving, especially in an event of a snow storm.
Finally, barns should have a fire exit plan to prevent panic and further disaster during a serious situation. This is very important to have but can be difficult to implement as many horses feel safe in their stalls and may be hesitant to leave, even if the building is on fire. In this plan should include the locations of the fire extinguishers and exits of the building as well as a designated meeting place in case of separation during a fire. If the barn has caught fire, place your horses in the paddock as long as there are gates to close off the yard area. It also would not hurt to have a map of your facility including buildings, animals, locations, power and water sources, any gates and equipment etc. This should be posted prominently for all who enter the barn to see. A layout of the facility can reduce panic during an emergency and also help with exiting and gathering more quickly afterwards.
Note: Barn owners should consult with their local fire department for additional advice on creating and filing a fire plan. Also, most fire departments will come to your farm if asked and help point out ways to further minimize potential fire sources on your property. For more information on fire safety and plans, visit the following links:
Overall, these are just some fundamental items and plans to have in order to better prepare yourself and facility for any emergency. Proper planning reduces the effects of emergencies or disasters and it is economically cheaper to lessen the effects rather than to pay the costs of recovery. The time to prepare is now!