Natural Disasters and Horses: How to Prepare

I know I missed the classic blogging Thanksgiving post by a few weeks.  But I think that being thankful is an excellent practice throughout the year, plus, my Thanksgiving was waylaid by one of the worst fears for equestrians: fire

We were away at the hospital when the neighbors called late at night that the neighborhood was under emergency and immediate evacuation.  California has received very little rain this fall/ winter, so the hills were ripe kindling, leaving no time for enacting our thorough evacuation plans.
Our neighbor rushed to our barn to turn the horses out into the large paddocks.
The wind was outrageous and whipped the fire into a fast spreading frenzy.

The next morning once we were allowed access to the road I checked on the horses.  They looked shell-shocked, but they were healthy and hungry for their breakfast.  They anxiously watched all the fire crews, but because they seemed happy to be together and to be home (we put them back in their stalls and closed all barn doors and windows so they were shielded from smoke.  They also drank enormous amounts of water!), we decided not to take them to a new facility which would just cause them more anxiety.
 The outer paddock fence posts were on fire, but no embers entered their paddocks.  The firemen came hiking out of the bushes and commended how well the property perimeter had been cut back of brush, and at how well the horses removed any dry vegetation from the paddocks.

The sand arena became a staging area for emergency vehicles, and hot spot teams and trucks used the fire roads and horse trails throughout the property.






Disaster Tips for Horse Owners:

Fire is traumatic! For humans and for animals.  Take time to assess any physical and emotional stress and treat it accordingly.

Make sure the appropriate disaster insurance for your region (tornado, fire, flood, etc.) is up to date.  Property insurance, fencing insurance, horse mortality/ major medical insurance.

Have multiple versions of your evacuation plan ready.  Sometimes you have an hour to evacuate, sometimes you have only 5 minutes.  Familiarize neighbors, employees, boarders, and any close or relevant parties with your evacuation plans. 

Preparation of the property! Maintain paths and roads- the fire crew loved how well they could access the property and neighboring properties with our roads.  Cut back vegetation (even if you have to bear the cost to cut back a stubborn neighbor's vegetation, it is worth it!), or take other precautions appropriate for the natural disasters in your region (clearing debris from flood zones or drainage ditches, securing propane or hot water tanks from earthquake, etc.)

Keep emergency numbers handy.
Always have a trailer in an easy to access and use location.
Attend local disaster preparedness meetings, particularly for animals.
Become a member or donate to your local volunteer emergency services.

Any other tips to share with other horse owners?

I'm grateful that no lives, homes, or animals were lost in this fire; I'm grateful for the thorough emergency response teams; I'm grateful my barn had used "best practices" in disaster avoidance preparation.  Serve yourself, your neighbors, and your animals and take time to ensure you are prepared to the best of your ability.