Preparing for a disaster – Are you ready?
Preparing people, pets, livestock and horses for a natural disaster.
If you have listened to the radio, watched television or visited social media within the last week, you are well aware of the damage inflicted by Hurricane Harvey. Did it make you think about what would happen if this happened to the area where you live? Living in Florida is reason enough to consider the possibility, whether you live in a coastal area or inland.
A second hurricane, Hurricane Irma is approaching Florida now and is currently a Category 5 hurricane with potentially life threatening wind, storm surge and rain. Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam is urging Floridians to be prepared. He states that, “It’s still too early to determine what impacts Hurricane Irma will have on Florida, but it’s never too early to prepare.”
The best way to get through a disaster is to be prepared. Taking simple steps to ensure the safety of you, your family, your pets, livestock and horses can go a long way toward heading off potential loss and heartache.
A basic disaster supply kit for people and pets includes:
Water – at least 1 gallon daily per person for 3 to 7 days
Food – at least enough for 3 to 7 days
- non-perishable packaged or canned food / juices
- foods for infants or the elderly
- snack foods
- non-electric can opener
- cooking tools / fuel
- paper plates / plastic utensils
Blankets / Pillows, etc.
Clothing – seasonal / rain gear/ sturdy shoes
First Aid Kit – Medicines and Prescription Drugs
Special Items – for babies and the elderly
Toiletries – hygiene items
Flashlight / Batteries
Radio – Battery operated and NOAA weather radio
Cash – Banks and ATMs may not be open or available for extended periods.
Toys, Books and Games
Important documents – (store in a waterproof container)
Insurance, medical records, bank account numbers, Social Security card, etc. Document all valuables with videotape if possible.
Tools – keep a set with you during the storm
Vehicle fuel tanks filled
Pet care items:
- proper identification / immunization records
- ample supply of food and water
- a carrier or cage
- muzzle and leash
Basic First Aid Kit for Livestock and Horses
- Handling equipment such as halters, cages, and appropriate tools for each kind of animal.
- Water, feed, and buckets.
- Tools and supplies needed for sanitation.
- Disaster equipment such as a cell phone, flashlights, portable radios, and batteries.
- Other safety and emergency items for your vehicles and trailers.
- Food, water, and disaster supplies for your family.
Additional Emergency Supplies
Consider adding the following items to your emergency supply kit based on your individual needs:
- Prescription medications
- Non-prescription medications such as pain relievers, anti-diarrhea medication, antacids or laxatives
- Glasses and contact lens solution
- Infant formula, bottles, diapers, wipes, diaper rash cream
- Pet food and extra water for your pet
- Cash or traveler’s checks
- Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records saved electronically or in a waterproof, portable container
- Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person
- Complete change of clothing appropriate for your climate and sturdy shoes
- Household chlorine bleach and medicine dropper to disinfect water
- Fire extinguisher
- Matches in a waterproof container
- Feminine supplies and personal hygiene items
- Mess kits, paper cups, plates, paper towels and plastic utensils
- Paper and pencil
- Books, games, puzzles or other activities for children
Maintaining Your Kit
After assembling your kit remember to maintain it so it’s ready when needed:
- Keep canned food in a cool, dry place
- Store boxed food in tightly closed plastic or metal containers
- Replace expired items as needed
- Re-think your needs every year and update your kit as your family’s needs change
- Since you do not know where you will be when an emergency occurs, prepare supplies for home, work and vehicles.
Home: Keep this kit in a designated place and have it ready in case you have to leave your home quickly. Make sure all family members know where the kit is kept.
Work: Be prepared to shelter at work for at least 24 hours. Your work kit should include food, water and other necessities like medicines, as well as comfortable walking shoes, stored in a “grab and go” case.
Vehicle: In case you are stranded, keep a kit of emergency supplies in your car.
Disaster Preparedness for Horses
Why Horse Owners Need to Be Prepared
Disaster preparedness is important for all animals, but it takes extra consideration for horses because of their size and their transportation needs. It is imperative that you are prepared to move your horses to a safe area. During an emergency, the time you have to evacuate your horses will be limited. With an effective emergency plan, you may have enough time to move your horses to safety. If you are unprepared or wait until the last minute to evacuate, you could be told by emergency management officials that you must leave your horses behind. Once you leave your property, you have no way of knowing how long you will be kept out of the area. If left behind, your horses could be unattended for days without care, food, or water.
Horse Evacuation Tips
Make arrangements in advance to have your horse trailered in case of an emergency. If you do not have your own trailer or do not have enough trailer space for all of your horses, be sure you have several people on standby to help evacuate your horses.
Know where you can take your horses in an emergency evacuation. Make arrangements with a friend or another horse owner to stable your horses if needed. Contact your local animal care and control agency, agricultural extension agent, or local emergency management authorities for information about shelters in your area.
Inform friends and neighbors of your evacuation plans. Post detailed instructions in several places—including the barn office or tack room, the horse trailer, and barn entrances—to ensure they are accessible to emergency workers in case you are not able to evacuate your horses yourself.
Place your horses’ Coggins tests, veterinary papers, identification photographs, and vital information—such as medical history, allergies, and emergency telephone numbers (veterinarian, family members, etc.)—in a watertight envelope. Store the envelope with your other important papers in a safe place that can be quickly reached.
Keep halters ready for your horses. Each halter should include the following information: the horse’s name, your name, your telephone number, and another emergency telephone number where someone can be reached.
Prepare a basic first aid kit that is portable and easily accessible. Be sure to have on hand a supply of water, hay, feed, and medications for several days for each horse you are evacuating. It is important that your horses are comfortable being loaded onto a trailer. If your horses are unaccustomed to being loaded onto a trailer, practice the procedure so they become used to it.
There may be times when taking your horses with you is impossible during an emergency. So you must consider different types of disasters and whether your horses would be better off in a barn or loose in a field. Your local humane organization, agricultural extension agent, or local emergency management agency may be able to provide you with information about your community’s disaster response plans.
Disaster Preparedness for Livestock – Why Livestock Owners Need to Be Prepared
Disaster preparedness is important for all animals, but it is particularly important for livestock because of the animals’ size and their shelter and transportation needs. If you think that disasters happen only if you live in a flood plain, near an earthquake fault line or in a coastal area, you may be tragically mistaken. Disasters can happen anywhere and can take many different forms, from barn fires to hazardous materials spills to propane line explosions, and train derailments—all of which may necessitate evacuation. It is imperative that you be prepared to protect your livestock, whether by evacuating or by sheltering in place.
- Make a disaster plan to protect your property, your facilities, and your animals.
- Create a list of emergency telephone numbers, including those of your employees, neighbors, veterinarian, state veterinarian, poison control, local animal shelter, animal care and control, county extension service, local agricultural schools, trailering resources, and local volunteers. Include a contact person outside the disaster area.
- Make sure all this information is written down and that everyone has a copy.
- Make sure every animal has durable and visible identification. Ensure that poultry have access to high areas in which to perch, if they are in a flood-prone area, as well as to food and clean water.
- Reinforce your house, barn, and outbuildings with hurricane straps and other measures.
- Perform regular safety checks on all utilities, buildings, and facilities on your farm.
- Use only native and deep-rooted plants and trees in landscaping (non-native plants are less durable and hardy in your climate and may become dislodged by high winds or broken by ice and snow).
- Remove all barbed wire, and consider rerouting permanent fencing so that animals may move to high ground in a flood and to low-lying areas during high winds.
- Install a hand pump and obtain enough large containers to water your animals for at least a week (municipal water supplies and wells are often contaminated during a disaster).
- Identify alternate water and power sources. A generator with a safely stored supply of fuel may be essential, especially if you have electrical equipment necessary to the well being of your animals.
- Secure or remove anything that could become blowing debris; make a habit of securing trailers, propane tanks, and other large objects. If you have boats, feed troughs, or other large containers, fill them with water before any high wind event. This prevents them from blowing around and also gives you an additional supply of water.
- If you use heat lamps or other electrical machinery, make sure the wiring is safe and that any heat source is clear of flammable debris.
- Label hazardous materials and place them all in the same safe area.
- Provide local fire and rescue and emergency management authorities with information about the location of any hazardous materials on your property.
- Remove old buried trash—a potential source of hazardous materials during flooding that may leech into crops, feed supplies, water sources, and pasture.
- Review and update your disaster plan, supplies, and information regularly.
Sheltering in Place
If evacuation is not possible, a decision must be made whether to confine large animals to an available shelter on your farm or leave them out in pastures. Owners may believe that their animals are safer inside barns, but in many circumstances, confinement takes away the animals’ ability to protect themselves. This decision should be based on the type of disaster and the soundness and location of the sheltering building.
Survey your property for the best location for animal sheltering. If your pasture area meets the following criteria, your large animal s may be better off out in the pasture than being evacuated:
- No exotic (non-native) trees, which uproot easily
- No overhead power lines or poles
- No debris or sources of blowing debris
- No barbed wire fencing (woven wire fencing is best)
- Not less than one acre in size (if less than an acre, your livestock may not be able to avoid blowing debris).
If your pasture area does not meet these criteria, you should evacuate.
Whether you evacuate or shelter in place, make sure that you have adequate and safe fencing or pens to separate and group animals appropriately. Work with your state department of agriculture and county extension service. If your animals cannot be evacuated, these agencies may be able to provide on-farm oversight. Contact them well in advance to learn their capabilities and the most effective communication procedure.
The leading causes of death of large animals in hurricanes and similar events are collapsed barns, dehydration, electrocution, and accidents resulting from fencing failure. If you own farm animals, you should take precautions to protect them from these hazards, no matter what the disaster potential for your area.
- Evacuate animals as soon as possible.
- Be ready to leave once the evacuation is ordered. In a slowly evolving disaster, such as a hurricane, leave no later than 72 hours before anticipated landfall, especially if you will be hauling a high profile trailer such as a horse trailer. Remember: Even a fire truck fully loaded with water is considered “out of service” in winds exceeding 40 mph. If there are already high winds, it may not be possible to evacuate safely.
- Arrange for a place to shelter your animals. Plan ahead and work within your community to establish safe shelters for farm animals. Potential facilities include fairgrounds, other farms, racetracks, humane societies, convention centers, and any other safe and appropriate facilities you can find.
- Survey your community and potential host communities along your planned evacuation route. Contact your local emergency management authority and become familiar with at least two possible evacuation routes well in advance.
- Set up safe transportation. Trucks, trailers, and other vehicles suitable for transporting livestock (appropriate for transporting each specific type of animal) should be available, along with experienced handlers and drivers.
- Take all your disaster supplies with you or make sure they will be available at your evacuation site. You should have or be able to readily obtain feed, water, veterinary supplies, handling equipment, tools, and generators if necessary.
- If your animals are sheltered off your property, make sure they remain in the groupings they are used to. Also, be sure they are securely contained and sheltered from the elements if necessary, whether in cages, fenced-in areas, or buildings.
Farm Disaster Kit
Make a disaster kit so you have supplies on hand in the event of a disaster. Place the kit in a central location and let everyone know where it is. Check the contents regularly to ensure fresh and complete supplies. Include the following items, then add items that you use every day:
- Current list of all animals, including their location and records of feeding, vaccinations, and tests. Make this information available at various locations on the farm.
- Make sure that you have proof of ownership for all animals. Supplies for temporary identification of your animals, such as plastic neckbands and permanent markers to label your animals with your name, address, and telephone number.
Your local humane organization, extension office, or local emergency management agency may be able to provide you with information about your community’s disaster response plans.
Links to information on Florida disaster preparedness: