This “firestorm” has affected almost everyone I know and everyone who owns a horse. I personally was involved in helping evacuate horses and helped horses at the evacuation centers who had health problems. So far I know of two clients of mine who have lost their homes and my heart goes out to them. Fortunately, their horses are safe. So far I have not heard of any of my patients suffering major injuries from the fires or the evacuation process, Thank Goodness! As always horse owners come together and selflessly help each other. I felt that this year the evacuations actually went smoother and with less injuries than the 2003 fires. I think this was due to more advanced notice, people willing to evacuate sooner and perhaps a little experience. I know we want to get on with our normal lives and not dwell too much on this stressful event, but it is always good to take a few moments after a disaster and evaluate. How prepared were you? What could we have done better? Obviously I haven’t heard all the stories yet, but I would welcome all of your input. Send me your stories, pictures, where did you evacuate to? What do you think you could have done better? How could someone else or an organization possibly help out? Any tips or tidbits are welcome. I’ll follow here with a general disaster preparedness plan and will send you other ideas as they come in.
Are you prepared?
When disasters occur and we face evacuating and caring for our horses, it takes a little more effort and planning. Obviously the biggest concern in our area is the need to evacuate in the case of a large wild fire. However, being prepared helps even if your horse is ill and needs to be moved to an equine hospital.
Consider having an easy to access emergency kit. Remember in an emergency everyone tends to get anxious and you want things handy. You may choose to have general first aid items here including antiseptic soap and ointment and some bandage material, but also consider having your horse's normal daily medication here if they are on a prescription. Bandage scissors, a working flashlight, and emergency phone numbers are helpful. This includes my number, your trainer or neighbor, a trailering service if you don’t own a trailer, fire dept., sheriff’s dept., animal control/rescue, and a list of potential evacuation sites.
One of the biggest issues in this large equine evacuation event was the lack of horse trailers. Some people were able to get some of their horses out, but on return were not allowed back in to get the remainder of their animals.
Do you have a trailer? How many horses do you have and will they all fit in your trailer(s)? If the answer is no to these you might spend some time researching alternatives in your area. I already know that several of my clients have plans to buy a trailer next week, but in some circumstances it does not make sense to have a horse trailer sitting around for each horse (i.e. large stables) But, have a plan, even if your horse needs to go to the hospital in the middle of the night. There are several transportation companies in the Southern California Horsemen’s Directory. Also there are many friends and neighbors that are willing to help out in an emergency. Have more than one option and the phone numbers handy. I will be working with the county Disaster preparedness chief veterinarian about the possibility of collecting names and numbers of people at evacuation sites willing to come out and help with evacuations once their stock is safe.
And…..if you are ever in this situation again and are having a hard time getting a hold of someone, please give me a call, I will do my best to help you out.
I am so glad to know that everyone for the most part now is safe and sound. I know a lot of us are mentally regrouping, but I see people starting to ride this week and the partnership we have with these equine companions of ours always helps us to feel grounded. Unfortunately some of our friends in Ramona have not faired so well. There were a lot more homes and barns lost in this area. If you have any interest there is a group working on bringing in donated hay to those who lost their entire Winter supply of hay....you can donate at this website http://www.hswhs.org/.
If you know of any other needs in our equine community please write. And please share here your stories, insights and even humor through this whole week. Also, you can access my website directly at http://www.drlisagrim.com/.
Thanks and God Bless,
Lisa Grim, DVM, Inc.