Preparing For A Barn Disaster

Prevent emergencies from becoming disasters. Whether it’s a fire or flood, having a plan can prevent or reduce the impacts of these events. Consider not only events around your house, but your barn as well. Consider what events may be the most devastating for your barn. Planning for these events will help prepare you for other events. For example, you can use a fire evacuation plan for floods.

Get The House Ready First

Keep these items in or near your home and at an off-site location.

  • Human first aid kit
  • Emergency kit with food and water for three days
  • Important paperwork
  • Photos and written descriptions of all horses
  • Extra halters and lead ropes
  • Generator with enough fuel for three days
  • Working flashlights
  • Battery-powered radio

Emergency Contacts

Put emergency contact information in an easy-to-find location and make sure that family, employees and clients know where it is. Contacts should include first responders, a veterinarian, your contact information, and others willing to assist during an emergency.

Horse First Aid Kits

You can purchase pre-assembled horse first aid kits or mke your own.  What to have in your first aid kit for your horse:

  • Vet’s phone number
  • Regional map
  • Stethoscope
  • Thermometer
  • Scissors
  • Flashlight and batteries
  • Unbreakable bowl – use with clean syringe for water or saline when rinsing wounds
  • Latex gloves
  • Bandaging material (telfa pads, gauze, cotton sheet or roll, vet wrap, elastic wraps, tape, duct tape – best if inner layers are sterile)
  • Antiseptic scrub and solution (i.e. betadine) – only use when diluted to a weak tea color and don’t use around the eye
  • Sterile saline
  • Hemostats – for picking out dirt and debris from wounds
  • Pliers (for pulling nails)
  • Splint material (i.e. 6 inch PVC split in half lengthwise)
  • Eye ointment – you can use this on various wounds as well as in the eye
  • Diapers or other absorbent pads – use to absorb blood or other fluids
  • Clean syringe (20cc or larger without needle)

Frightened Animal Behavior

Human safety is always the first priority. This includes the horse owner, family members, employees, boarders, visitors and you!

Frightened animals are unpredictable. Even the gentlest horse can become dangerous when frightened. Take specific actions to avoid getting in harm’s way.

Identifying The Horses

Identifying horses is valuable if a horse is lost or stolen. If you have a horse without identifiable markings, this is particularly important. Identifying methods are a personal preference, but may also be a breed requirement. Registered horses may already have one or more of the following in place.

Permanent Identifiers

  • Photographs and written descriptions
  • Brands
  • Tattoos
  • Microchips

Temporary Identifiers

  • Washable paint
  • Etch hooves
  • Braid luggage tag with contact information into mane
  • Pastern bands

Evacuation Plans

Goals of an evacuation plan

  • The plan quickly and safely moves animals and people out of the facility
  • Everyone engaged in the facility knows the plan and can carry it out in the absence of the owner
  • Brings awareness of potential emergencies and barn problems to horse owners
  • The plan is written out and easily accessible to others
  • All buildings must have multiple unblocked exits that people and animals can use

Developing An Emergency Evacuation Plan

How will each horse be removed from the barn?

  • Will they be led individually or herded?
  • In what order?
  • Can they be herded out the door to a holding pen? It may not be possible or safe to put a halter on a panicked horse.

Plans for an evacuation like a flood may be different than for a fire where there is less time.

Do you have spare halters and lead ropes located in an area away from the barn? Having spare halters away from the barn can be beneficial (i.e. during a fire), especially if there are large numbers of horses on the property.

Are There Horses That Need To Be Handled Differently?

Examples include stallions, foals or elderly horses.

Where Will The Horses Go If The Barn Is Damaged?

  • Ideally put horses in a safe paddock away from the barn.
  • During a fire, place horses far from the burning facility to avoid illness from breathing in smoke.
  • Is there space to separate horses (i.e. stallions)?
  • During an emergency, it’s common for a frightened or confused horse to try and return back to its stall, where it feels the safest.
  • Practice using all barn exits.

Will You Be Able To Get Food And Water To The Holding Area?

Applies if they need to stay there for extended periods of time. 

Can You Trailer The Horses If Necessary?

  • Is there access to a functional truck and trailer?
  • Will the horses easily load?

Has Everyone Involved In The Horse Facility Practiced The Evacuation Plan?

A lot can be learned from practicing an evacuation plan. From practicing you can improve your plan as necessary.

Do you know your neighbors or other horse owners in the area? Neighboring horse owners can be a resource during an emergency.

Courtesy of University of Minnesota Extension