Commentary on Equine Disaster Planning and University Resources

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Credit: Thinkstock There are many resources on disaster planning available from universities, which could serve you well in avoiding loss on your farm during fires, floods or other natural disasters.

Credit: Thinkstock There are many resources on disaster planning available from universities, which could serve you well in avoiding loss on your farm during fires, floods or other natural disasters.

More than 100 land-grant colleges and universities have Extension educators who bring research-based information to agricultural producers and the public, including horse owners. Over the last decade, the university specialists and educators involved with both equine science and disaster education (preparedness, mitigation, response and recovery) have made significant collaborative strides in developing and publishing resource information. These efforts include materials on three different platforms: eXtension (the national Extension website: http://learn.extension.org), My Horse University (a collaborative effort between university equine specialists: www.myhorseuniversity.com), and the Extension Disaster Education Network (EDEN) (collaboration of disaster educators across the United States: www.eden.lsu.edu).

Webinars on animal disaster preparedness and biosecurity are available on eXtension and My Horse University (enter “disaster” in the search engines), along with a wealth of other equine and livestock information. The EDEN website is an extensive information hub that has disaster-specific information (e.g., drought, hurricanes, tornadoes, animal disease), as well as resources for communities, families, and children dealing with disasters.

A notable effort has been the EDEN Strengthening Community Agrosecurity Preparedness (S-CAP) program, which is a two-day course that facilitates emergency managers and agriculture/ livestock owners to evaluate vulnerabilities within counties and develop enhanced agrosecurity plans to address local needs. This process almost always includes establishing response and evacuation guidelines for equine owners. To date, 48 S-CAP workshops have been conducted, which represent 24 states, 285 counties and 23.7 million residents.

Universities and partners are incorporating rural readiness into disaster readiness curricula, which includes specific materials focused on equine issues before, during and after disasters strike. Beneath the surface of many of the partnerships you will find delegates from EDEN developing, publishing, and collaborating on new materials on a regular basis.

It is imperative that information and resources for horse managers during disasters is both research-based and refereed by experts and civic authorities for validity. With the popular nature of horses internationally, valid information that is readily available is critical when crucial incidents are impending or ongoing. No equine manager can afford to be basing response on “popular” or “web-based” practices or materials during a crisis. In most cases equine managers will have an average of 30 minutes to 2 hours to prepare for a disaster, although in some cases it can be as little as 15 minutes. During two floods and seven wildfires in the western United States it took an average of 15 minutes per horse to respond to disaster if the responders were already equipped and organized. If not ready, the average was closer to one hour per horse.

For those reasons equine managers should have a disaster plan, equipment, personnel, evacuation routes, emergency supplies, first-aid kits, and emergency contact information ready at all times. The eXtension, My Horse University, and EDEN resources can help utilize the hard-earned, factual knowledge developed by professionals to reduce impacts from disasters. Remember: Having a plan can save human and animal lives.

This article was written by Scott Cotton, University of Wyoming Extension Area Educator.

It was first published in the Equine Disease Quarterly, published by the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment Department of Veterinary Science and sponsored by Lloyd’s of London and its Kentucky agents. You may subscribe to this publication for free.