Develop a Barn Emergency Evacuation Plan
Disasters cannot be scheduled on a calendar, but the damage may be mitigated with advance planning. The American Red Cross suggests developing an emergency farm, barn and animal evacuation plan.
Before disaster strikes
Planning ahead helps everyone remain calm and think clearly. The personal safety of those involved is the foremost concern.
Establish procedures and assign duties. Designate a person to unlock gates, doors and make the property accessible to emergency personnel. List the resources - vehicles, equipment, feed and water sources - that will be useful. Include an updated telephone list of emergency personnel, employees, neighbors and boarders.
Post the emergency plan in a visible place and have everyone who lives, works or boards at the property become familiar with it.
Be a good neighbor. Find neighbors who will help out during a disaster and familiarize them with the plan. Return the favor.
Keep a portable first aid kit and a battery-powered radio handy. Equip the barn with ladder(s) high enough to reach the roof, cotton ropes, shovels, rakes, water buckets, flashlights or lanterns, blankets and at least 100 feet of hose. Have appropriate restraining equipment for the type and number of animals at the property.
Reduce or eliminate hazards. Regularly clean roofs and gutters. Repair exposed wires, rotted structural supports and blocked waterways. Clearly label all utility shut-offs. Store all combustibles away from animal barns. Mow weeds and remove overhanging trees that could fall. Maintain a firebreak around buildings.
Consider animal water and feed sources. Animals may go extended periods of time without food, but can only last several days without water. Identify emergency water sources.
Communicate and cooperate with all emergency personnel.
If it becomes necessary to leave the premises, tell someone the route and destination. Stay in contact with that person as conditions allow.
Cell phones can be a lifesaver, so keep a battery charger in a vehicle to extend the calling time.
In a fire
Contact emergency personnel immediately. Report changes in wind direction, speed and fire behavior. Post a lookout for possible dangers.
Have your trailer hitched and pointed towards the road. Leave barn doors unlocked and keys in the ignition. Put halters on animals and keep gates unlocked but secure. If it becomes apparent the barn will burn before emergency personnel arrives, release the animals to a safer location. Animals often will return to a place they know as home, but do not enter burning buildings. Leave such rescues to trained emergency personnel.
If fire is encountered in an open area, seek out sparse vegetation or bare ground. Lie face down in a depression and take cover from anything that can protect from the heat. Do not try to outrun the head of a fire, instead watch for slower burning flanks. Let any animals go free to give them a better chance of escaping the blaze.
Remember to drop, cover or hold on. When the tremors stop, assess the situation and prepare for aftershocks. Do not enter buildings that may have become unstable. Be aware of potential electric or natural gas hazards. Reassure frightened animals. Contact emergency personnel to assist injured or trapped people or animals.
Rising water can quickly cut off escape routes not only for people, but also animals. If there is advance notice of rapidly rising waters, move animals, feed and clean water to higher ground. Make sure they will not be left in standing water or in areas that will later be cut off by flood waters.
Leaving animals behind
Conditions may require that animals be left behind. A visible sign on a barn window or door alerts rescue workers of the breed and number of remaining animals. Leave adequate food and water in a secure container. Place extra food nearby, so rescue workers may feed the animals. Do not tie animals or confine them in an area that may be easily destroyed. If animals must be released for their safety, direct them toward a safe pasture. Animals roaming loose on roads or highways can be injured and interfere with rescue vehicles.