Be the first to leave an evacuation area, especially when horses are involved.
enlist the help of a neighbor or friend? (Keep in mind that in a natural disaster, such as a wildfire or a hurricane, your friends might be tied up with their own horses’ needs). If you’ll make two trips, what horses will you take first? And which ones can be hauled together? Establish a written plan for which horses you’ll load up first and where you’ll put them in the trailer. Once again, include notes about temperament or any personality quirks that might provide useful information for anyone who might show up to help.
Step 5: Assemble a Disaster Kit
Begin with your luggage tags for all of your horses, your binder full of information, and your written plan for transport. Consider including a set of inexpensive leather halters and lead ropes, one for each horse. Leather halters are preferable to nylon because they’ll break more easily if they hang up on something (such as storm debris or downed fences). If you’re in an area with high fire risk, leather is even more important as nylon can actually melt under high temperatures, which can cause severe skin damage on your horse’s head. Include basic first-aid supplies and a small amount of medication for any of your horses that are administered something every day that they really shouldn’t do without (such as pergolide to treat a horse with Cushing’s disease). Sedation medication would also be a great thing to include in case you find yourself with a terrified horse that you need help to control. Talk to your vet about the best options for sedation based on your experience and the horses in your herd.
Step 6: Arrange Stabling
When an evacuation order (or even a suggestion) comes, chances are your horses won’t be the only ones looking for a place to go. Talk to barn owners in your area who might have extra stalls, or managers of large horse facilities such as racetracks or fairgrounds. Make arrangements ahead of time and list these facilities on your “emergency plan.” Prearranging for an emergency makes your horses a first priority on their ever-growing list of animals in need. It’s wise to have close-by options in the event your evacuation is due to a smallscale disaster, such as a barn fire or local flooding. Remember, though, in large-scale natural disasters there’s a good chance local barns will be in trouble, too, and all of the horses in your area will be seeking refuge. Be sure to identify options far enough away from home that the facilities are less likely to be impacted by the same disaster, and will be willing and able to take your horses in.
Step 7: Plan Your Route
Imagine an evacuation. Your horses are loaded up and everything you need is in your emergency kit. How will you “get outta town?” Again, being familiar with the most likely disasters to impact you is important, and reviewing different roadway options will help you plan a route. Have several different options planned, taking into account what roads might be closed or blocked. Keep in mind that if you’re leaving town, so is everybody else, and heavy traffic will be an issue— especially on major highways. Take a look at back roads that might be less heavily travelled to avoid getting stuck. Include maps and directions outlining your possible escape routes (including possible destinations) in your disaster kit.
Step 8: Hold Practice Drills
It sounds like a lot of work, but practicing an “evacuation drill” is a great idea— especially if you live in an area where even small-scale natural disasters happen frequently. Remember: When evacuation is really necessary, it’s likely to be a pretty stressful time. Working out the kinks in your plan ahead of time can help things go smoothly when it counts. At minimum, make a time to review your plan with barn staff or family members. Make sure they can locate your disaster kit, and know what their roles would be during an evacuation.
Step 9: Monitor the News
Weather apps and social media make it hard to miss reports of impending disaster. If a storm is predicted, pay close attention to its path or to reports of flood potential. If a wildfire is detected, know where it’s burning and whether it is contained. Find out ahead of time where you can tune in to the most reliable and up-to-date predictions and recommendations.
Step 10: Evacuate Early
Finally, if disaster strikes and evacuations are recommended, “Get outta town.” Don’t be that person who refuses to leave the area, even when mandatory evacuations are called for. In fact, it’s safest to be the first to leave the area, especially when horses are involved. You’ll be less likely to be trapped in terrible traffic situations, will be the first to reach a safe haven, and may even be able to help others once your horses are safe and sound. Get more tips to prepare for wildfires at HorseandRider.com.