PHOTO: Ari Bakker/Flickr
Heidi Strawn
February 18, 2009

Lightning, thunder, hail and strong winds: These symptoms of spring and summer weather bring with them concerns about your safety as well as the safety of your animals on the farm. To help you plan your response to a disaster such as rough weather, and to help you keep your livestock safe, we’ve compiled information from several sources.

Knowing that your household and animals are prepared for a disaster emergency, such as severe weather or a fire, provides a certain peace of mind. Here are tips and checklists to help farm and livestock owners prepare for disasters.

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Envision Evacuation

In any successful evacuation associated with a natural disaster, the initial steps begin before the actual event.

Kay Addrisi, former Emergency Management Director for Garfield County, Colo., recommends creating a written emergency plan. This plan should include drawing and posting maps of escape paths from each building.

Post beside your exit point a checklist of items from your home, office or barn that must go with you.

  • Practice your plan. Designate escape routes and destinations as well as alternatives for both. Fine tune the plan and make certain your family and everyone else who lives, works or boards at your facility is familiar with it.
  • Create an emergency “go-bag” for each person in the household. This could include a change of clothes, sturdy shoes, prescription medications, spare glasses, and battery-operated radio and flashlight. Anyone with special needs should be provided for–diapers, formula, hearing aid batteries and so on.
  • Develop a support team. Arrange reciprocal agreements with friends, promising that you will come to their aid with your truck or trailer if they will come to yours.
  • Make sure your animals are familiar with your trailer. Train them to board the one you will use so that they load willingly into it.
  • Leave a sign. As your last act before leaving, tape a sign with the word “EVACUATED” printed in large, dark, block letters to your front door. At the bottom of it, write the telephone number where you can be contacted as well as the number of your out-of-area contact person.

Prepare Your Animals

If disaster threatens, be prepared to evacuate animals at a moment’s notice:

  • Keep a phone list of your network of helpers beside the phone or on your smartphone.
  • Keep pets crate-trained and larger animals schooled on loading into trailers or trucks.
  • Have a “go-bag” ready for pets, including food and water containers, as well as special food or medications.
  • Bring small pets indoors.
  • Have identification and contact information on each collar or halter.
  • Mark stalls or pens—front as well as rear exits—with a splotch of paint or colored ribbon to designate priority animals.
  • Train your animals to leave through all exits of stalls or pastures.
  • Keep gas tanks full and vehicles pointed toward the road.
  • Keep trailers hitched and close to stable or loading pens.
  • Decide ahead of time what you will do if any animal offers strong resistance to leaving.

List Essentials to Bring

Create a checklist of items you consider essential and keep the items accessible. Mark off items as you load them into vehicles so no one will waste time searching.

  • Keys (always keep in the same place when not in use)
  • Purses and wallets
  • Cash and credit cards
  • Cell phone and charger
  • Go-bags
  • Organizer (addresses, phone numbers, e-mail addresses)
  • Copies of insurance documents and birth certificates
  • Other important documents
  • Prescription medications
  • Family photographs
  • Computer software and backup media
  • Valuable jewelry and family heirlooms
  • Weapons and ammunition

The Humane Society of the United States offers additional information, including disaster preparedness for livestock and other animals, as well as training opportunities.

Excerpted from “Get Out Now!” by Kathleen Ewing in the January/February 2007 issue of Hobby Farms magazine.

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  • Keep your coop secure all night and open only during daylight.

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