Do you have a plan? Tomorrow night 5 local fire departments are using our farm to "simulate" a multiple department response to a major fire which requires animal evacuation. Interestingly, I was unaware that we did not have sufficient water pressure to battle a major event so I readily agreed to participate. Thus, they will be working with lots of tanker trucks, inflatable pools, tec. I will also be giving lessons on horse handling and safe evacuation to around 30 of them that have no experience with horses. They will then practice evacuating horses from their stalls, at night, with trucks and equipment nearby, emergency overhead lights flashing, extended hoses, noise and artifical lighting. So, this past week I have been updating my barn's Fire and Evacuation Plan and working with my "fire friends". We have a good plan but I wanted to share some of the actions they find really important to ensure their maximum efficiency
At your barn entrances, plain for all to see and read (multiple languages if required), should be a detailed diagram/floor plan of your barn. This diagram should identify the number of and location of every animal in the barn that requires evacuation, the location of fire extinguishers, hoses, electrical panels, etc. It should clearly show all exits (including windows) with exiting directions showing the exact location to which the horses and other animals can be safely evacauted to. For example - exit the main door turn left, 50 meters to gate, release animal and close gate. Visually it must be specific and simple - giving both visual and written instructions. Our departments require a safe contained area to put the horses be available. They will not simply release them so they can run from the danger. These directions must be precise and clear as you can basically assume many of your responding fire fighters no nothing about horses, your farm and may be working in dense, heavy smoke.
Make sure all stabled horses are easy to halter and ensure the horse will accept a "hood" over it's head or even a towel over it's eyes. It is a simple de-sensitizing exercise and it may be a life saver in a worst case scenario.
Make evacuation hoods available next to your posted Evac Plan. Identify what they are to be used for. Clearly identify boxes that contain Stallions, un-trained, hard-to-handle or dangerous horses (those that bite or kick). They need to know when time is of the essence.
Think about it....how will your horses react when a firefighter in full gear, (looking and sounding like Darth Vader) comes to say hello? Talk to your local fire department about your plan. Invite them to your facility and they will be happy to work with you to make it as safe and hazard free as possible. Volunteer to be an exercise location. Ask them to get to know your place and they will know exactly where to go and what they will be facing if the call ever needs to be made. Let's hope it never does.
We love firefighters here at our farm!