Hurricane Season Preparation for Florida Horse Farms

Information provided by Dana N. Zimmel, DVM, DACVIM, DAVBP, Associate Dean for Clinical Services & Chief Medical Officer and Amanda M. House, DVM, DACVIM, Clinical Associate Professor & Equine Extension Specialist 

Quick links:

State of Florida Emergency Response Links and Documents: www.freshfromflorida.com/animalemergency

Emergency Equine Relocation Database: http://evac.flahorse.com/

The Atlantic hurricane season is upon us again until November 30, 2017.  Although we always hope that most of the activity will remain offshore in the Atlantic, we have been very fortunate in the last several years that a major hurricane has not hit Florida.  With Hurricane Irma tracking into the Caribbean and towards the Florida Keys, the time to prepare our homes and our farms is now.  The leading causes of large animal deaths from hurricane Andrew were collapsed barns, electrocution, and kidney failure secondary to dehydration.  Advanced disaster planning for your family, your pets, and your horses is crucial to minimize panic and consequences should a storm strike your area.  A comprehensive disaster plan should include how to prepare before the storm, what to have available during the storm, and considerations for after the storm.

Before the Storm

Horses

  • Vaccination: All horses should have a tetanus toxoid vaccine within the last year. Due to the significant increase in mosquitoes after massive rainfall, all horses should receive West Nile virus and Eastern/Western Encephalitis vaccinations at the beginning of hurricane season. If your horse has not been vaccinated in 4-6 months, they should receive a booster now.
  • Coggins test: A negative Coggins test is necessary if the horse needs to be evacuated to a community shelter or cross the state line.
  • Health Certificate: A health certificate is required to cross the state line. This may be necessary for evacuation of coastal areas.
  • Identification: Each horse should be identified with at least one, if not all of the following:
    • A leather halter with name/farm information in a zip lock bag secured to the halter with duct tape.
    • A luggage tag with the horse/farm name and phone number braided into tail. Make sure this is waterproof.
    • Photos of each horse as proof of ownership highlighting obvious identifying marks.
  • Evacuation: Evacuation of flood planes and coastal areas is recommended. Evacuation must occur 48 hours before hurricane force winds occur in the area. Transportation of horses when wind gusts exceed 40 mph is dangerous.
  • Should horses be left in the pasture or placed in the barn? If the pasture has good fencing and limited trees, it is probably best to leave the horses outside. Well constructed pole-barns or concrete block barns may provide safety from flying debris, but the horses may become trapped if the wind collapses the building.
    • Electrical lines: Keep horses out of pastures with power lines.
    • Trees: Trees with shallow roots will fall easily under hurricane force winds and can injure the horse or destroy the fencing.
    • 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 the premises and feed for these potential dangers.

Farm

  • Water
    • 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 if you have large numbers of horses.
    • Keep chlorine bleach on hand to add to contaminated water if necessary. To purify water add 2 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 down power lines and trees, limiting access to feed stores. Cover hay with waterproof tarps and place it on palates.  Keep grain in water tight containers.
  • Secure all  movable objects
    • 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 barn
  • Emergency First Aid Kit
    • Bandages (leg wraps and quilts)
    • Antiseptics
    • Scissors/Knife
    • Topical antibiotic ointments
    • Tranquilizers
    • Pain Relievers (phenylbutazone or Banamine®)
    • Flashlight and extra batteries
    • Extra halters/lead ropes
    • Clean towels
    • Fly spray
  • Emergency Tools
    • Chain saw / fuel
    • Hammer/nails
    • Fence repair materials
    • Wire cutters / tool box / pry bar
    • Fire Extinguisher
    • Duct tape

After the Storm

  • Carefully inspect each horse for injury to eyes and limbs.
  • Walk the pasture to remove debris. Make sure that no Red Maple tree braches 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 the property for down power lines.
  • Take pictures of storm damage.
  • If your horse is missing, contact the local animal control or disaster response team.
  • For more information regarding general emergency management in the estate of Florida contact http://www.floridadisaster.org

Who is available to help?

Each county in the state of Florida has an Emergency Support Function officer (ESF-17) in charge of animal emergencies. They report to the Emergency Command Officer for the county who reports to the state veterinarian Dr. Michael Short. The College of Veterinary Medicine has formed a Emergency Response Team per the request of the Governor. This team “VETS” Veterinary Emergency Treatment Service will provide immediate veterinary care until the community is able to stand on its own.

Under severe conditions Dr. Short can activate the federal veterinary rescue team VMAT (Veterinary Medical Assistance Team). There are additional teams of rescue personnel such as DART (Disaster Animal Rescue Team) which is sponsored by the Humane Society of the United States. These teams are trained in rescue techniques and work with local and state emergency personnel.  All of these individuals are dedicated to assisting the community in a crisis. They can rescue horses from sink holes, air lift them from flooded areas or arrange for a water tanker to come to the farm.