Thursday, May 1, 2008

Are You Prepared?

On this gorgeous sunny day, I am still haunted by the photos on the news of the three tornadoes that hit Suffolk, Va. earlier this week. When we lived there, my job was in Suffolk and I commuted every day about forty minutes from Chesapeake. The offices of the TV production company where I worked were literally next door to where the tornadoes ripped through buildings and flattened houses. I was so grateful that we were resettled safely here with a few hundred miles between us and all the devastation.

I’ve felt this overwhelming feeling of gratitude for narrowly escaping disaster several times in recent years. Just before we moved from California to Virginia, Hurricane Isabel blew across Chesapeake. The owner of the barn where I ended up boarding Silk and Siete told me how terrifying it was. She painted her cell phone number on the side of each of her horses and turned them loose during the storm. In San Diego, where we once lived, other friends of mine escaped the wildfires with their horses last fall. They wrote their cell phone numbers in Sharpie on their horses’ front hooves. When we moved here, I had brass halter plates engraved with my address and phone number on them. I attached them to the girls’ halters in case they ever got loose and wandered away from home.

Last summer, there was a tornado that touched down about five miles from here. It was very unusual, and I was not really prepared. I opened the doors of the stalls for the horses, so they could run into the corral if the barn collapsed. Then, I took my family and my other animals to the basement and prayed really hard. We were fine, but it made me realize that I needed to get my act together.

So here I am, under blue skies, sorting through my emergency kit and figuring out whether I could actually walk my horses into my basement if another tornado came our way. We have four plastic 5- gallon containers filled with water in case the electricity goes out and the well pump doesn’t work. I figure that will be enough to give the horses for two days. I’ve put a generator on my wish list just ahead of the horse trailer, but so far we haven’t won the lottery.

Does anyone else have any good ideas or must-have items for horse owners in bad weather emergencies? Let’s think about it now before hurricane and tornado and wildfire warnings interrupt our regularly scheduled programs. I don’t know if you remember what I told you a while ago: When someone asks me what does a TV and film producer actually do, my answer is always that I’m the one who worries the most.


Callie said...

Excellent post! We often have bad weather including tornados. I open the pasture to them and they utimately find their safest place. I also make sure they are haltered for easy catch if there is a storm approaching.

Grey Horse Matters said...

The identification systems seem like a really good idea. I'm not so sure you could get them into the basement though, it might be interesting if you could. Water,feed,hay and extra lead ropes is good to have on hand for a few days too. Other than the normal storm kit, flashlights, candles, radio etc... I can't think of anything else. Well maybe a pitchfork,shovel and muck bucket if they do get into the basement, I'm sure everyone else would appreciate those items.

detroit dog said...

Hi Victoria, This is a wonderful post. I've often wondered about farm animals in these situations, but it never occurred to me how to identify - and shelter - them. Perhaps I'll write a related post after I read some suggestions on your blog.

I've friends that are TV and film producers (local), and I worked at our public TV station for a number of years. As such, I've always thought it was the administrative assistants and secretaries that worry the most! :-D

If you work for Connecticut PTV you probably know someone from Detroit.

billie said...

We are not truly prepared for disaster here. We usually have the water tank in the horse trailer full, and we never let our hay get too low. But we don't have a generator (it's on our list too) and our horses don't wear halters in the field. I like the idea of phone numbers on the hoof!

This is the kind of thing that has the potential to drive me nuts if I obsess over it, so... I tend more and more not to fret too much.

This is a good reminder though to give some thought to basic preparedness and if I can get through this week with Salina's lameness and Rafer Johnson's gelding I will be happy to spend a few days thinking and preparing for something that HASN'T happened yet! :)

coymackerel said...

The May issue of Dressage Today has an article on how to avoid fires in the barn and planning for what to do should one happen. There are also a number of good articles at

LJB said...

Hmm, I haven't done this since I moved to VT, however when I lived in ME, I gave animal descriptions to the local sheriff's office in case they got loose, and how to reach me (work and cell numbers) in case something happened while I was away from home.

Rising Rainbow said...

I never thought about writing phone numbers on horses before but that makes perfect sense. I sure hope I never have to use that bit of information.

I'm still trying to get people organized here to develope a disaster plan for horses but it's easier said than done. You'd think with the disaster just two counties away last winter, it would be fresh in people's minds but it's not.

Pony Girl said...

No, I am not prepared. It is so easy to say, "Oh yeah, I need to do that sometime." Then when disaster or an emergency arises, I will be sorry. Thanks for this reminder!! I will make it a goal of mine now.

the7msn said...

I sure would like to think I'm prepared. We have a big fire burning out here now (and the winds continue to blow it in the opposite direction from me) but if the wind were to shift, I’d evacuate in a heartbeat. Unlike this person, who I just read about in this morning’s paper.

“A couple of hours after being told to evacuate his home, Michael Smith ...heard what sounded like a jet engine and saw thick black smoke and 60-foot flames just 20 yards away. The Trigo Fire was bearing down. Smith's 15-year-old son jumped into the pickup, Mom got into the van, and Dad took the family's sedan. They were able to get one dog, a cat and their two sugar gliders into the vehicles. The rest of their pets— three other cats, four dogs and two donkeys were left behind as they took off speeding down the narrow dirt road...”

I’m sorry, but this family had a couple of hours’ notice to get out, they didn’t, and now these animals are left up on a burning mountain. What were they thinking???

Bones said...

Hey Victoria!

-Phone number on halters
-Do they do microchipping for horses?
-Good to see you've got water; I also keep iodine tablets in my earthquake kit so I can treat what water I do find
-wind-up radio (LL Bean has 'em cheap) so you can get the news
-pet food (this applies more to your other pets than the girls) as you usually can't go to a shelter with your animals. I just saw a dehydrated cat/dog food at our local pet store, which would be perfect for the disaster kit as it keeps a long time
-baby wipes, hand sanitizer, and a couple of heavy-duty plastic garbage bags for waste and keeping clean. Wipes are much better than tp!
-a big fat marker so you can mark your front door if the building's red-tagged and you know it's empty; also useful for marking horse hooves...
-a wrench or screwdriver so you can turn off your gas (and use your marker to indicate you've turned it off so someone doesn't come by and turn it back on!)