Be the first to leave an evac­u­a­tion area, es­pe­cially when horses are in­volved.

Horse & Rider - - Conformation Clinic -

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.

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