For the majority of us on the sidelines of the Fort McMurray fire, it is impossible to understand what evacuees are going through. Many have no idea what — if anything — remains of the homes they were asked to leave immediately on Tuesday, when the entire city was put under a mandatory evacuation order.
It’s one thing to ponder what you would take from your home in the case of an emergency, given only a moment’s notice, I can’t imagine how entirely different it is to experience that firsthand.
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And in all this, I started thinking — do we have a farm evacuation plan? Do you? Would I have the faintest clue what to do first if we were to even consider leaving the farm in an emergency?
I emailed Tanya Bettridge, administrative and public education support for Perth East and West Perth Fire Departments in Ontario.
— Tanya Bettridge (@PEFDPubEd) May 6, 2016
“There are two different types of evacuation plans that come into play,” she wrote back. “Building and Property.”
And each has a subset of questions to answer in planning for an emergency event.
Building – In the case of a barn fire or property-specific event, a plan needs to answer the following:
- How do you and other workers exit the structure from each area?
- Are the exits clearly marked?
- Are occupants able to call 9-1-1 and is the address visible? Do they know the address?
- How often do you practise evacuating the building?
- How do animals get out of their containment areas (stalls, pens, cages, etc.)?
- How can animals be evacuated quickly once they are out of their containment areas?
- What measures need to happen in order to physically evacuate each type of animal?
- Where will animals be directed, once outside the structure?
- Do you have an agreement with neighbours, should the animals require off-property housing and transportation?
- Do you have an accurate record of inventory of animals? Where is it kept and is it easily accessible?
- What kinds of needs do your animals have once they have been evacuated? How will you address those needs?
Property – In the case of a widespread emergency that affects multiple properties or a large area:
- How quickly can occupants and animals be evacuated from your property?
- How will be they be transported, and by whom?
- Where will they be taken? What if that destination also requires evacuation?
- What biosecurity measures need to be in place during this process?
- How will the animals be fed and watered, both during transport and at the destination?
- What measures need to be in place, should their stay be extended or long-term?
Bettridge also emphasized the importance of home escape planning.
“Know two ways out,” she advised. “Have a designated meeting place, ensure everyone in the home knows the plan and practise it.”
“Remember, when it comes to any kind of emergency, the plan prevents the panic.”