With the recent uptick in natural disasters, it has never been more important for horse owners to have an emergency plan in place. Uncontrolled wildfires, flooding as a result of mega-storms and massive destruction due to hurricane-force winds are all conditions that may force the evacuation of horses from their homes. In cases such as these, having a detailed action plan can aid in saving the lives of both humans and horses. Having important documents for each horse in a safe and organized place can save time if a last-minute evacuation is required. Coggins paperwork, vaccine records and microchip information are invaluable for identification of lost horses as well as necessary should you have to evacuate to a temporary shelter or boarding facility. Understanding local and regional emergency protocols and resources should also be part of a well-designed emergency plan. The NJ Office of Emergency Management has a wealth of online resources (link below) that are specific to the state and can help you in creating a unique plan for your personal situation.
Some of the important considerations that must be addressed by an emergency plan include transportation, feed and water rations, and potential relocation. The transport of horses during an emergency situation may not be feasible in some cases and the focus of a disaster plan then becomes how to make the property and facilities safest during extreme weather conditions. Having enough food and water on-hand to last for an extended period of time is another crucial consideration when preparing for natural disasters. If the potential for loss of power exists, stockpiling water may be necessary. A good rule of thumb is to assume that each horse on the property will need between 30 and 40 liters of water daily. The use of heavy-duty water troughs can then serve as reservoirs for water should the water supply be cut off during a storm. Having enough good-quality forage on-hand to sustain horses through an extended period of time is another consideration that must be thought out ahead of a weather-related event. Minimum intake for a horse is approximately 1.5% of its body weight daily in forage. Based on this, a 1000-pound horse would need 15 pounds of forage daily.
Several excellent online resources have been produced with veterinary collaboration by TheHorse.com and include articles and checklists that can be used as a guide to building your own disaster plan. UC Davis has also created a comprehensive library of disaster management resources for horse owners. Links to these resources and others discussed above can be found below.
20 Disaster Planning Questions:
FEMA Fact Sheets:
New Jersey Office of Emergency Management
Equine Emergency Checklist
UC Davis Disaster Preparedness