Disaster Planning – Hurricanes

Hurricanes, tornadoes, flooding and fire are the most common natural disasters. The leading cause of death in large animals during Hurricane Andre in 1992 included animals killed in collapsed barns, electrocution, kidney failure secondary to dehydration and animals hit and killed on roadways or tangled in barbed wire after escaping from their pasture. Each farm should have a written disaster plan to optimize safety and survival of all animals. This post is focusing on Hurricane and Flood Planning.




  • Vaccination:  All horses should have a tetanus toxoid vaccine within the last year.  Due to the increase in the mosquito population after massive rainfall, you should also consider giving your horses the West Nile Virus and Eastern?Western Encephalitis vaccinations as well.
  • A health certificate is required to cross any state line.  This may be necessary for evacuation of coastal areas.
  • Each horse needs to be identified with at least one, if not all of the following:  A halter with name/farm information in a zip lock bag secured to the halter with duct tape; A luggage tag with horse/farm name and phone number braided into the tail.  Make sure that this is water proof; Photos of each horse as proof of ownership highlighting obvious identifying marks.
  • Evacuation of flood planes and coastal areas is recommended.  Evacuation must occur 48 hours before hurricane force winds occur in any area.  Transportation of horses when wind gusts exceed 40 mpg is dangerous.
  • Should horses be left in the pasture or placed in the barn?  If your pasture has good fencing and limited trees, it is probably best to leave the horses outside.  Well constructed pole barns may provide safety from flying debris, but the horses may become trapped if the wind collapses the building.
  • Keep horses out of pasture with power lines.
  • Trees with shallow root will fall easily under hurricane force winds and can injure your horse or destroy fencing.  Do not keep horses in barbed wire or electric fencing during a storm.
  • Fire Ants and snakes will search for high ground during flooding.  Carefully look over your premises and prepare for these potential dangers.


  • Each horse should have 12 - 20 gallons per day stored.
  • Fill garbage cans with plastic liners and fill all water troughs.
  • Have a generator to run the well.
  • Keep chlorine bleach on hand to add to contaminated water if necessary.  To purify water add two drops of chlorine bleach per quart of water and let stand for 30 minutes.

Feed Storage

  • Store a minimum of 72 hours of feed and hay (7 days is best).  It is very possible that roads will be closed because of downed power lines and trees limiting access to feed stores.  Cover hay with water proof tarp and place it on palates.  Keep grain in water tight containers.


  • Remove all items from hallways.
  • Jumps and lawn furniture should be secured in a safe place.
  • Place large vehicles/tractors/trailers in an open field where trees cannot fall on them.
  • Turn off electrical power to the barn.
  • Keep an emergency first aid kit - human and equine on hand.
  • Keep emergency tools on hand:  Chain saw/fuel; hammer/nails; fence repair material; wire cutters/tool box/pry bar; fire extinguisher; duct tape


  • Carefully inspect each horse for injury including eyes.
  • Walk the pasture to remove debris.  Make sure that no Red Maple tree branches fell in the pasture.  Just a few wilted leaves are very toxic to horses.  Clinical signs of Red Maple toxicity are dark chocolate-colored gums, anorexia and red urine.
  • Inspect property for downed power lines.
  • Take pictures of storm damage.
  • If your horse is missing, contact the local animal control or disaster response team.

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