Preparing and planning for a disaster, such as a wildfire, is one of the best ways to minimize stress and reduce the number of snap decisions that you need to make during the critical event.
Colorado has experienced several wildfires throughout the state, and extreme drought conditions are indicating that fire danger is not yet over. Although planning for such an event can be troubling, taking actions to prepare yourself and your livestock for such an event can save time, money, and lives!
Put together a livestock ‘Disaster Kit’ before an emergency situation and include a list of tasks that you need to complete, and items that you need to take with you in the case of an emergency and/or evacuation.
CSU Extension’s recommendations for a disaster kit include:
- Tack, ropes, halters
- Concentrated feed, hay, supplements, and medicines
- Copies of ownership papers
- Buckets or feed nets
- Garden hose
- Flashlight or lantern
- Blankets or tarps
- Lights, portable radio and spare batteries
- Livestock first aid supplies
“In any disaster situation, your first priority should be your personal safety and welfare, followed by the safety and welfare of other people, and finally animals and property. If you are safe, you can do more to benefit animals. If you are at risk, so is their welfare and health.” Follow official instructions for access and safety when exiting and reentering a disaster zone.
Additional tips for preparing yourself and your livestock for disaster:
- Be aware of wildfire risk, and monitor conditions regularly.
- Be knowledgeable of local and regional emergency response agencies.
- Research any designated community evacuation/sheltering plans.
- Prepare a safe location to house your livestock in case of emergency.
- Assess your capabilities for moving your livestock in an emergency, and prepare for assistance if needed. If you have larger animals and need additional trailers/equipment for moving them, connect with some neighbors to plan for sharing resources if the need arises. Make these arrangements prior to an emergency.
- Make sure that your livestock will be accessible, and no major obstructions will prevent you from completing your livestock evacuation plan.
- Practice loading your livestock so you and the animals are familiar with the process.
- Understand that animals will become aware of an emergency before you might, and their fight/flight behavior will kick in. This has the potential to make them unmanageable during emergency relocation, and can result in injuries and death (as they attempt to flee the perceived danger). In these situations, experienced handlers (and extra hands) are needed to reduce injury to the livestock and owners.
- If someone else needs to evacuate your livestock, make sure that your contact information and the number of animals is painted in multiple locations around the pens, barns, and other holding areas.
Livestock need your assistance in surviving these disaster conditions, however, in some situations where you cannot evacuate your horses according to plan and there is imminent danger to you and your horses, it is better to turn your horses loose instead of leaving them confined to a barn or pasture.
Animal Safety Suggestions:
- Do not leave halters or headstalls on animals in holding pens or when released. They can catch the tack on trees, equipment and other obstructions.
- Do not tie animals together when releasing them. The connection creates a hazard for the animals and people trying to recapture them.
- Try to avoid releasing animals unless absolutely necessary to protect your safety. They may run accidentally towards other risks.
- Report the location, identification and disposition of your livestock to authorities handling the disaster; especially if your animals are aggressive or nervous by nature. Have EOC emergency numbers on your cell phone.
- Make sure you have adequate markings to prove ownership of your livestock, and to make sure that any misplaced animals can be returned to you.
- As always, refer to state and local laws for updates and legal requirements.
Here are some tips to make animal identification and reunification a smoother process:
- Consider having ID tags (or luggage tags) attached to any animals that are halter broke.
- You might consider having paint on hand, to put your contact information on the animals themselves.
- Use a permanent marker to write your name and number on the hooves of horses.
- Microchips are another way for you to make sure that your horses will be easily traced back to you.
- Keep pictures of your livestock in your disaster kit, to aid in identification.
- Make sure that all your animals have brands, ear tags, and notches.
Additional Fact Sheets and Resources:
Preparing Your Animals for Disaster
- Caring for Livestock Before Disaster
- Caring for Livestock During Disaster
- Caring for Livestock After Disaster
- Creating a Community Animal Disaster Plan: Step-By-Step Guide
- Plan for Livestock in Advance of Emergency Brochure
- Ready Ag Workbook: Designed to help farms & ranches better prepare for disasters
- Saving Pets, Saving People: Overview of Community Animal Disaster Planning
Fire Safety Resources
- CSU Extension Fire Resources
- Fire Safety In Barns
- National Fire Protection Agency 150: Standard on Fire & Life Safety in Animal Housing Facilities
- West Slope Fire Info
- Wildfire Preparedness for Horse Owners