Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Rider's Wednesday -- Fire Drills

Yesterday, I wrote a bit about how my friend Denise discovered a barn fire just in time to put it out.

The fire involved electrical equipment. But I didn't know where the main switch was to shut the power off to the barn. I also wasn't sure where her fire extinguishers were located. When she yelled, "Grab a bucket of water!" finding a bucket in a horse's stall was easy. But the bucket was empty, all the watering troughs were difficult to get to, and the water pump was not immediately accessible.

The incident shook both of us. We got to talking about how well we did or didn't know each other's barns, and what to do (God forbid) should a similar situation arise.

Then we took the topic one step further, and considered our friends' and neighbors' barns. We discovered that either:

A.) we weren't as familiar with our friends' set-ups as we'd thought, or
B.) the barns in question had some serious design flaws that should be considered before an emergency arises.

For instance, one friend's water pump is located inside the barn, down a dark, fairly narrow corridor. In the case of a fire, it could be dangerous -- if not impossible -- to access.

None of us, we discovered, knew how to shut the power off to anyone else's barn. (One friend doesn't have a power shut-off outside -- it's only possible from the house. Not so good if there's an emergency and they're not home.)

With one exception, none of us knew where the others kept their fire extinguishers.

We weren't even sure where our friends and neighbors kept extra, empty buckets, or where an auxiliary water source could be found.

And so, each of us are drafting a Fire Drill protocol for our property. It will include contingencies for evacuating horses and other livestock (like Fair turkeys!). It will also include the locations of such important things as buckets, extinguishers, water, power, and exits. We're going to go over our drills on site, so that we know where things are in case of an emergency.

If you haven't yet done so, I urge you to come up with a fire plan for your place right now. Then, make sure that everyone who regularly visits your property knows where things are and understands what to do in case of emergency.

There's an old saying about locking the barn after the horse gets out. I'll admit, it took a fire to make us evaluate our preparedness to deal with a crisis. Fortunately, the crisis was small when we found it. Because the sad truth is, we were not prepared for anything big.

I pray that we will never need to use our fire preparedness. But if the situation does arise, here's hoping that a little advance preparation will help us avoid disaster.