Experts seem like they are always giving dire warnings of the consequences of not having a disaster plan. The wildfires in Tasmania this week are a horrific reminder to horse owners that we have a moral, legal, and ethical responsibility to our animals, our families, and our communities.

We must ensure that we have made better arrangements than to wait until the last minute to react when disasters threaten. Worse, recent studies show that despite years of those ominous warnings and efforts to educate, many people do not even have the basics of a disaster plan for their families, much less their pets and their horses. We don’t want to let that person be you, so a few simple ideas for making your plan work are below and in the next portion of this blog.

The first step is admitting there is a possibility of a problem that could affect you. The second logical step is admitting that in an emergency it is possible that water, sanitation, food, power, and telephone will not work at your home, your work, and your barn.

Since it may take days for emergency workers to reach your location, you must acknowledge that you ought to undertake efforts to ensure your family’s well-being in the immediate aftermath of a disaster or evacuation. You should not even consider working on any plan for dealing with your horse(s) until you get this first part right. Your family is most important, and if they are made part of the planning preparation process this will make them more resilient and capable if a real emergency occurs.

How Ready Are You?

Take an inventory of your personal situation while you are sitting there at the computer. See if you can answer these questions to test your personal preparedness.

Scoring: Give yourself 1 point for each completed area, and 1/2 point for each that is partially complete You get 0 points if you have no preparation in this area.

  1. I have a lockbox or safe with copies of the most important records together in one file (birth certificates, passports, marriage documentation, insurance, etc.) and I know the combination.
  2. I have 72 hours worth of canned or long term storage food, and all the utensils needed to open and prepare meals for my family in an emergency.
  3. I have solar or battery powered flashlights, weather radio, cell phone chargers, and power for any other devices that I need to be able to stay in touch with the outside world in case power is lost for three days to more than one week.
  4. I have containers to hold at least three days worth of fresh water in case of emergency. And I have bleach that I can use to treat other water sources to make it safe for sanitation.
  5. I have a first-aid kit with sufficient supplies to deal with most medical emergencies to treat a patient, and I have taken a CPR and first aid course so that I know how to utilize these supplies.
  6. I have a method of keeping my family warm (or cool) depending upon environmental conditions if we are forced to shelter in place.
  7. I have a “go bag” of minimal necessary items (for each family member) that I can easily pick up and put into a vehicle with three days changes of clothes, undergear, socks, shoes, rain gear, warm clothes, and other necessary items (medications, etc.) for myself and my family.
  8. I know where the shut-off valves for the water, power, natural gas, and other utilities are on my property.
  9. I have some extra cash, extra batteries, and tools to be able to perform minor maintenance in an emergency.
  10. I have maps of my local area and where I am evacuating to in case I have to navigate to safety; and I know at least two ways out of my neighborhood and town/city.

How did you do?

If you were able to check off six points (of the possible 10 above) then you are already better prepared than your neighbors, and are well on your way to having a great disaster plan. It is the rare family that can get all ten points in the above areas – but it gives you a goal. Once you can get at least eight points – you are ready to move on to preparing your horses and your barn/stable. Do you have items and suggestions to add to this list? Have you made specialty preparations for your family that you are willing to share with others? Please contribute them here.

Additional Resources offers a more expansive list of items to go into your disaster kit, as well as excellent ideas for getting your family to work together on a disaster plan. FEMA also has a suite of tools to work on your preparedness plan with recommended lists.

Next week we will move on to a disaster plan for your barn or stable, whether you board your horse or keep them at home.