Photo: Jay Calderon
As wildfires continue to ravage many parts of California, we believe it is important that you ensure that you are taking appropriate measures to protect yourself and your animals when natural disasters strike. Below is an article by Heather Smith Thomas for, which discusses what to do in the event of a natural disaster.

No one wants to envision what might happen to their horses if suddenly faced with a flood, hurricane, tornado, wildfire, earthquake, or other disaster, but in certain parts of the country these devastating events can be a part of life, and horse owners must be ready for them. Of course, location makes a difference in what to prepare for: Horse owners in the Rocky Mountains don’t need to worry about hurricanes or tornadoes, for instance, but they might be threatened by raging wildfires.

Regardless of where you and your horse live, you need to establish and record a plan for these types of situations. “There may not be much time to figure things out during an emergency, so you need an exit strategy—how to get out, safely, with your animals and secure your place before you leave,” says Rustin Moore, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVS, professor and associate dean for clinical and outreach programs at The Ohio State University’s Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences.

Moore helped coordinate Gulf Coast hurricane relief for horses and owners in 2005 and 2006, seeing the gamut of what can happen to horse owners—prepared and not. He suggests at the very least having first-aid supplies on hand and easy-to-access contact information for veterinarians and people who could help transport your horses in the event of an evacuation—especially if you don’t have a trailer or if you have more horses than you can haul with your rig. He and other veterinarians experienced with disaster response offer ways to be ready if disaster hits.

Watch Closely and Don’t Wait

If you live in a natural disaster-prone area, pay attention to weather forecasts and situation reports. While tornadoes can pop up rapidly, hurricanes, floods, or wildfires usually come with some notice. If there’s an out-of-control fire in your area, however, and the forecast is for high winds, act quickly; a fire can travel dozens of miles in a few minutes.

“Don’t wait until the last minute, thinking the fire won’t get to your place, or that a hurricane will miss you or be less powerful than predicted,” says Moore. “With Hurricane Katrina, people had plenty of time to get out, but ignored the warnings until it was too late. Part of the issue was unpredictable things that happened, like the levees breaking, causing flooding.”

Dennis French, DVM, professor at the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine, was also involved in recovering horses impacted by Katrina. He says it’s important to have trailers functional, serviced, and ready to go at a moment’s notice–whether to relocate your own horses or to rescue others. You can’t just grab an old trailer that’s been sitting unused and expect it to be functional.

Also be able to leave your farm quickly: this means having horses trained to load. If you don’t own a trailer, borrow one so you can teach your horse(s) to load. Like a fire drill for school children, horses need to know what to expect so you won’t waste time trying to load a reluctant horse.

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