• What if your barn caught fire? Or there was a hurricane or flood in our area?
  • What about a disease outbreak that affected your animals? (Foot and Mouth disease-cattle, pigs, goats, etc ; or Vesicular Stomatitis-horses, cattle, goats, pigs, etc.)
  • Most people try hard not to think about these things happening to them, but in the event that something like this did happen, would you be able to handle the effects on your farm? Would you be able to assist your neighbors or your community as well?
  • Being prepared isn’t something that just happens. It is an active process that requires you to make a plan and gather the supplies/information needed and have it handy so that the plan can be implemented and people and animals can be moved safety and maintained until it is safe to return.
  • Do you have a disaster plan in place for your home, farm or business?
  • Do you know what it takes to put together a disaster plan?

This article is designed to get you started on the road to being prepared and to begin formulating a disaster plan for your farm. This is something that may be very specific to your needs depending on your location, amount of land you have, type and number of animals you have, and the resources available to you. I have tried to focus on the farm/animal aspect of this topic, however, many of these principles carry over into your household and family planning as well.

First, identify potential hazards/disasters common or possible in your area.

These will include natural disasters like fires, floods, tornados, earthquakes, disease outbreaks, but you must also take into account man-made disasters like hazardous spills, criminal activity, or terrorist attacks. Most of these you may not think are possible, but you should truly consider what you are likely to experience based on your geographic location and proximity to certain industrial or public works sites.

In other words

If you are near the west coast or located near a fault line, you should plan for an earthquake.
If you are near an industrial area you might want to consider a written hazardous materials plan.
Everyone except the highest elevations should consider a flood plan.
Every barn should have a plan for what to do in the event of a fire.


These are suggestions. You must accurately identify all potential disasters likely for you.


Once you have identified the potential disasters, you should put together a communication plan.

This will consist of how to contact the appriopriate people in the event that a disaster does occur and in what order to call them (In the event of a fire call 911 and the barn owner-in that order).

This list should include contact information for all farm staff, animal owners (boarding barns, kennels, shelters), emergency personnel (fire, police, veterinarians, physicians, etc.), neighbors, important resource contacts (hay suppliers, transporters, extension agent, etc).

It is strongly recommended that every family/farm have a designated contact point where others can check in and attain information about the status of your safetly and that of their animals. This will limit confusion and allow for more efficient communication.

Develop the plan to be implemented

See to the safety of human personnel and family members

Ensure that if possible, animals are evacuated to safety.

Know and identify the quickest and least hazardous route to safety: outside the barn, out of the path of a hurricane, above the flood plain, etc.

Identify a safe location and detail a plan of how to evacuate your family and or animals (horses, pets, etc) ahead of a storm, like in the event of a hurricane. The specifics of this plan depend on your facility and location. Many people underestimate how far away they will need to go to get to safety and how much time they will have to get there. Often a path of a hurricane is undetermined and you may not have as much time as you think to get out of its path. If you have pre-ordained a location (say with a family member in another state), then you will significantly reduce the amount of time needed to evacuate.

Also, require your boarders and staff to be on board with the farm plan and have a disaster plan in place for their animals and households as well. They can’t help the group if they are struggling to help themselves.

Gather resources to care for your family/animals: critical supplies needed to evacuate or maintain yourself at home in the event that basic infrastructure is not operational.

Food (human and animal), CASH, water, batteries, medicines, a first aid kit (human and animal)

*Cash is critical to have on hand as power may be out for a long period of time and Credit/Debit cards will be useless

In case of severe weather, have a plan to stay warm/dry in the event that a disaster occurs during winter or wet weather (wood to burn, horse blankets, rain coats, shelter, etc.)

It is important to have all of these supplies/resources readily available and accessible in the event that you do not have a lot of time to evacuate. Having a go-bag put together with each family members/animals supplies will allow you to implement your plan that much more effectively.


Once you have a plan in place, it is just as important to communicate and practice your plan with everyone involved.

Your family, barn staff and boarders need to know the plan backward and forward and be ready to implement the plan in a moment’s notice.

In some cases it is beneficial to have the plan written down and copies available to all persons involved.

Training for a disaster allows for things to flow seamlessly during the event of the actual disaster.

Each person needs to know their role and how to perform it flawlessly. There needs to be an order established and an obvious chain of command to follow: In a farm/barn situation, it is important to have people in charge of certain areas and those people report to only one supervisor. The owner or barn/farm manager may be the obvious choice, but you may decide to appoint a disaster coordinator on the farm that has been through additional training and has more experience dealing with disasters than the farm manager. In a family situation, the head of the household may fill the role or one of the parents is assigned that duty. In either situation, the role must be determined well in advance of the disaster actually occurring. The plan needs to be updated as the household or farm changes.

There are additional training courses online offered by FEMA that outline disaster preparedness and several are required of any and all personnel that wish to act as volunteers in disaster relief. I myself have already complete IS-100 and IS-200. I am making these courses required for all my staff members at the vet practice. They are free online and take a about an hour or two per course. Just go to fema.gov to learn more and take the online ICS courses.


The following Appendices are articles still under construction and will hopefully follow soon.

Appendix A: What do I put in my go-bag?

Appendix B1: what do I need in my animal first aid kit?

Appendix B2: what do I need in my human first aid kit?

Appendix C: where can I find resources for training and preparing for a disaster?

Appendix D: what supplies do I need to have on hand in the event of a disaster?