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Thursday, September 6, 2012

How prepared are you for an emergency?

How prepared are you for an emergency?
Hoegger Farmyard

How prepared are you for an emergency?

Even as I type, wild fires are raging out of control in California, with over 3,500 homes threatened by the flames in one region. Over 8,000 firefighters are battling to contain three fires, and hundreds of families have been evacuated.

July 2012 was the warmest and 28th driest July on record, causing wildfires to threaten homes in several states. Should you find your home and livestock threatened by any kind of disaster requiring evacuation, do you have a plan in place? You know what they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Planning ahead could save you vital minutes as you scramble under emergency conditions to co-ordinate your farm.

Alexis Griffee  from Roamin Roan Acres in Milton, Florida, had her own emergency situation this year which prompted her to send us the following article:

“Chilling images of the wildfires out west have many feeling the need to prepare their own ‘evacuation plan’ for their herds. This winter we had our own personal reminder about the importance of needing to be able to evacuate our home and our animals as fast as possible.

As with most winters in our area, the weather was dry and windy. This particular day we had winds at 30mph. An individual decided that this would be a good time to burn brush to clear his land. Obviously, the fire quickly got out of control and spread to nearby fields.

We received a call from our neighbors telling us to get home. In the time it took to get home, about 5 minutes, the fire had burned through fields and was coming to our property. We managed to hook up the trailer in record time, evacuate our goats and horse and move them off property.

While this particular situation turned out well and everyone was safe, it was a stark reminder at how easy it is to overlook simple steps that could have saved us time when seconds counted.

  • Collars: Always have collars on your animals! These don’t need to be fancy, just there! We had some goats without collars and it was a mess to try and handle a frightened animal with no real way to control it. We use bailing twine a lot, and you can get cow ear tags and write your info on them and attach it to the collar. If we hadn’t had time, we would have had to open the gates and herd our animals off property and worry about rounding them up later. Sounds horrible, but if you’re in a disaster type situation you have to make these choices.

  • Don’t Panic!: Always remember that a scared animal will act totally differently than normal, especially when they sense your own panic! My mare, the most dead calm horse ever, was terrified. Fire was licking at our fence and she thought she was trapped. I got her out and loaded, but she spooked at something that wouldn’t normally bother her and knocked me over. Remember that as freaked out as you may be in a situation; animals are even more since they can’t rationalize it. Fight or flight.

  • Contacts: Make sure that your neighbors have your contact information! We were not home when the fire started and if our friends and neighbors didn’t have our contact information, we wouldn’t have known! It is also helpful to have your phone number posted on a farm sign up at the front of your property in case the emergency responders need to contact you.

  • Transportation: Always have some mode of transportation ready. Whether it is a crate, goat tote or a trailer, always have this cleaned and in working order in case you need to load up animals fast!

  • Livestock Guardians: This is one more situation where I was very happy to have a livestock guardian! Our Pyrenees went above and beyond this day. The fire was by the fence line and smoke was everywhere when we arrived at our house. Our guardian, Sadie, had the goats herded in a group at the center of the pasture. When we arrived, we hooked up the trailer and then went to get the animals loaded. Sadie herded the scared goats to the gate and helped get them in the trailer. Having her there helped me greatly and she also gave the panicked animals a sense of security- they knew not to argue with her that day!”

And don’t forget your feathery farm members – have crates ready to load chickens into, or have a plan in place where they can get to a safe place in case of flood.

What might you need to include in your emergency preparations?

  • Emergency radio: For those of you who live in areas with poor cellular coverage, these can be vital in keeping in contact with other family members, and they also have an emergency weather channel.
  • Flashlight: These ‘no batteries, no problem’ boy scout ones are great because, let’s face it, batteries are never where they’re meant to be when you need them.
  • Animal records: If you need to board your animals somewhere, or in case of medical emergency, detailed health and vaccination records are essential to have on hand. Use this handy binder with individual health record sheets to keep everything straight.
  • Collars: Each doe, buck and kid should be wearing a collar and / or ID band for ease of catching and to keep tabs on whose kid belongs to whom! Fiber goats especially may be better suited with ear tags for ID.
  • In a high stress situation, goats may be feeling the pressure, causing them to experience some rumen upsets. It is worth keeping probiotics in your kit and some kind of natural stress reliever.
  • First aid kit! At the very least, have some Blood Stop powder and some kind of antiseptic.

For more hints and tips on how to organize your farm or homestead in case of emergency, see this Humane Society link.

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