Are You Prepared?
To inaugurate Equimat North America’s exclusive retail launch of Scotty Firefighting products, Equimat co-owner Jill Giese will be giving a presentation this weekend at the Mane Event in Chilliwack with Scotty Firefighting president Lloyd Rees on emergency preparedness on the farm. With the rampant wildfires still burning across the Canadian and American West Coast, there is no better time to invest in learning valuable lessons to know what to do when a fire threatens. In 2009, the evacuation of Jill and partner John’s Pemberton home and farm Dreamcatcher Meadows due to wildfire threat led them to discover Scotty Firefighting products. With Camel Back Mountain totally ablaze and a valley filled with smoke, Jill and John were forced to evacuate Dreamcatcher Meadows Breeding and Training Centre – their own and boarders’ horses, rescues and many other residents from parrots to cats to miniature donkeys. Thankfully, a emergency evacuation plan was in place and staff, friends, clients and the horse community were able to execute that plan – ensuring that everyone (from fur to feather) was able to evacuate to safety.
Every horse lover – barn owner, boarder, or even guest visiting their favourite, needs to know what to do when fire threatens. We believe that being prepared is key. Having lived the nightmare, Jill and John at Equimat North America introduce a line of professional firefighting products that they know work and will help you avoid a potential disaster. In advance of Jill’s lecture at the Mane Event, we have collated some barn safety tips for fire-preparedness from friends, top industry publications and our own experience (!) on how to best manage your farm and horses in case of emergency. Keep your eyes on this space for further information about Scotty’s Products, and to learn how to create an evacuation plan for your facility –
Stay informed and keep safe !
JILL, JOHN AND YOUR FRIENDS at EQUIMAT NORTH AMERICA
Barn Safety Tips in the Case of Fire
✓ Prominently post the fire department phone number at each telephone
✓ Post clear, concise directions to your property at each telephone. This will allow you to provide clear instructions to responding emergency services.
✓ Make sure your neighbours know the address of your farm, and any important info about your farm and the buildings on your property. It is often your neighbour who will notice the smoke or flames coming from an adjacent property. By ensuring your neighbour knows your address, you can save valuable time for responders (especially in rural areas).
✓ Have a list of veterinarians and make sure that the one you call will be able to reach your animals for treatment during an emergency.
✓ Designate in advance who is in charge in the event of an emergency
✓ Identify exits and possible evacuation routes from all areas of barns and farm buildings. Ensure everyone is familiar with these routes.
✓ Maintain an identification list of all animals on your farm. Make necessary arrangements to house livestock in the event that they need to be evacuated from the barn in a fire (i.e. where are they going?)
✓ Consider the purchase of a layman’s book on veterinary care. Become familiar with the portions in the book dealing with emergency treatment ahead of time.
✓ Review the plan with all facility members / employees and update your plan regularly to accommodate changes to the buildings, livestock or staff.
✓ Keeping a clean, clear space around buildings and in general yard areas can help reduce fire spreading from one building to another.
✓ Strictly enforce a ‘NO SMOKING’ policy in and around all farm buildings. Post ‘NON SMOKING’ signs. Ensure they are observed.
✓ Practice good groundskeeping. Remove brush, weeds and tall grass from around buildings. Proper trimming and pruning of your trees, and clearing underneath will make a difference in a fire. Using fire retardant plans in landscaping with greatly minimize the air-borne cinders.
✓ Large clearings are generally safe for your house, as well as your horse, during a fire. Note that the Fire Department judgement is 200 feet of clearance to bare earth around your property.
✓ Provide clear access to water supplies that might be required for fire fighting (i.e. wells, cisterns, ponds, streams, etc.)
✓ Maintain wells and pumps used for water supply
✓ Maintain a perimeter fence to prevent horses from leaving the property
✓ Ensure that there is vehicle access to the barn, and at least 25 feet or 8 meters always available for a firetruck.
THE BARN: GENERAL
✓ Keep aisle ways clear of clutter
✓ Ensure that each horse has a place for halter / lead rope in front of their stall.
✓ Ensure stalls and restraining equipment on property have quick release mechanisms.
✓ Grain handling and feed preparation activities generate dust which presents an explosion / fire-hazard. Vent these areas and provide a fresh air supply. Properly protect electrical fixtures and use totally enclosed, fan-cooled motors.
✓ Keep hay stored on wood palettes to allow air to circulate around the hay. Hay catches fire easily, so keep it away from flammable items and in a place where the air can ventilate. Be aware, wet hay can cause fires.
✓ Sweep cob webs from rafters, walls and fixtures often. Cob webs are surprisingly flammable and explosive (!), and will nurture a fire!
✓ Nylon halters and ropes can melt into your horse’s flesh. Same goes for nylon blankets / fly sheets. Use a leather halter and cotton lead rope.
THE BARN: ELECTRICAL
✓ Farm electrical must be maintained and in good working order. Electrical installations and repairs must be done by qualified persons in accordance with applicable codes.
✓ Know where the main electrical service panels are located, and know how to shut them off.
✓ Stall fans, space heaters, radios, lights are to be used only when someone is in the barn.
✓ Disconnect or unplug electrical equipment and appliances when not in use.
✓ Enclose exposed wiring in barns to protect against weather, animals, mechanical damage.
THE BARN: FIRE EXTINGUISHERS
✓ Install fire extinguishers in your barn, tool shed and other farm buildings. Make sure fire extinguishers are well-labeled.
✓ Make sure family members and employees know where the extinguishers are located and know how to use them.
✓ Maintain your extinguishers by inspecting them regularly and recharge when necessary.
FARM EQUIPMENT & ACTIVITY
✓ Refuel equipment outdoors. Keep engines, motors and machinery well maintained to prevent malfunction and overheating.
✓ Ensure all liquid fuel and propane storage areas are located according to applicable codes
✓ Have transportation: If you don’t have a truck and trailer, get one or arrange in advance for someone to ship your horses in an emergency.
✓ Keep your truck gassed up, facing the exit and do a weekly safety check on your rig. Know it will be ready to go. Practice hooking up the trailer to tow vehicle in the dark.
✓ Stock your rig with a disaster kit. Extra halters and leads, first aid supplies and flashlights important.
✓ Train to load: It is important that horses know how to lead and load. A panic situation is not the time to teach your horse to load.
✓ If your horses is a handful, talk to your vet about tranquilizing him in an emergency. Have a tranquilizer on hand. Know how to administer it.
✓ Keep in mind: Sedating your horse in an emergency is not always a good idea. Your horse may lose its natural instinct for self preservation. It also may lose balance and stability. You are only allowed to administer medication to your own animals. Do not offer to administer medications to anyone else’s horse.
✓ If all horses can’t go in one load, decide ahead of time which ones will go first. It makes sense to take the easy loaders first.
✓ Plan alternate routes: Regional disaster planning and emergency services can help you figure out the best travel routes to your safe spots. Ensure you plan several routes, in case certain roads are blocked.
✓ Establish with your horse that you (the human) are the herd leader. When a horse feels threatened, its natural response is to take flight, fight or freeze. Regardless of your handling abilities, your horse can hurt you, a by-stander, damage property or even injure himself (self-destruct). It is important to train your horse to behave well before an emergency situation arises. Work with your horse, and keep his or her training consistent to handle new environments and situations.
✓ Be an aware owner. Keep your horses immunized on a regular basis!
✓ Make sure your horse has some sort of permanent identification, such as a freeze brand, microchip implant, tattoo, etc. and keep photographs (winter and summer coats can be different) and copy of all your horse’s identifiable features in a safe place.
✓ Learn various knots so you can safely tie a group of horses together, perhaps on a picket line.
✓ Take your horse out at night. Not all emergencies occur in the daytime. Familiarize your horse with flashlights.
✓ If you need to remove a horse from a burning building or corral, you need to blindfold the animal – know how to do so safely. Tuck a dry cloth into their halter. Practice is key.
✓ Dry bandanas or other cotton fabric make a good temporary smoke mask to place over a horse’s nostrils.
✓ Accustom your horse to drinking from different or strange water buckets. Try using a collapsible bucket, too. Boxed apple juice on hand can be added to encourage a horse to drink.
MAKING A DISASTER KIT: KEEP THESE SUPPLIES WITHIN EASY REACH
✓ Flashlight and batteries
✓ Battery-operated radio
✓ First-aid supplies for both horses and humans
✓ Emergency tools – chain saw, hammer and nails, wire cutters, pry bars, duct tape (!)
✓ List of emergency contacts, including your veterinarian
✓ Clean towels
✓ Most barns will only accept safe horses and those who can present a coggins/health certificate. Try to keep these items up to date at all times.
✓ Keep vaccinations and coggins up to date. Keep coggins handy.
Horses are survivors. They are strong and will follow their instincts. They often survive on their own. The moment may come when your life is in peril – If necessary, be prepared to let go of the horse to save your own life. Trust that he will find his way.