If you ask a group of horse owners to name a few things they never want to see, you’ll likely hear ‘barn fire’ mentioned again and again. Barn fires always top of the list of fall and winter fire safety concerns.
Last year, we saw these types of fires destroy farms and lives around country. With the drought a lot of the country has been experienced, barn and horse estate fires have been far too prevalent. Since an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, let’s put quarterly effort into fire safety awareness. This October especially, let’s concentrate on fall fire safety on a farm.
Top Fall Fire Safety Tips for a Horse Barn
- Mandatory Electrical Wiring and Outlets Checks – it’s common sense that barn wiring and outlets should be inspected regularly but … we understand how time can fly. Before you know it, a year has passed and you haven’t gotten around to these necessary fire prevention checks. Even fairly new barns can develop problems, which is why, no matter the age or condition of your barn, we recommend you do quarterly inspections on your wiring and electrical outlets. Literally take a pencil and put it down on your spring, summer, fall and winter chore lists. Anything electrical needs to be clear of dust, debris, and cobwebs. Broken outlets or loose / frayed wiring should be repaired by a professional immediately.
** Always have a licensed technician replace or repair damaged electrical units and wiring. This includes heaters and lighting fixtures.
- Unprotected Barn Lighting Can Be Killer – Lightbulbs can burst for any reason, creating a barn fire from the hot shards of glass that showers down on dust, hay, or straw. If you don’t have the budget to replace all of your lighting with a safer LED system, there are still things you can do to protect your barn. For your annual fall fire safety check, do a once over and make sure all of your light bulbs have an explosion proof covering to protect them. And of course, and keep the space around the lighting clear of cobwebs, straw, hay, or anything else that could act help the fire grow.
- Dust, Debris, and Cobwebs – Yes, we know this is a tired thought but, we can’t say enough about how dangerous cobwebs, dust, debris, and general clutter can be fore a barn. Clean and check your barn, and then do it again… all electrical appliances like fans, heaters, radios, should be cleared of any flammable buildup. And yes, dust can be flammable – especially barn dust as it’s typically made from dried organic materials. When fighting barn build-up, remember, compressed air and a broom are you friend. Just remember to cut power or unplug things first, if possible.
- Inspect Barn Appliances – In addition to the obvious fire hazards – the portable appliances like infrared heaters – all built-in appliances should also receive regular maintenance and checks. This includes automatic waterers, insect control systems, pipe and water heaters, and more. And keep in mind, portable heaters can spell instant disaster! Do not allow them in your barn.
- Proper Combustible Storage – At random times, a barn can be holding several different forms of combustibles. This includes the well-known fuel for farm equipment, but also, as our friends over at Osh remind us, “Flammable and combustible liquids are present in almost every workplace. Fuels and many common products like solvents, thinners, cleaners, adhesives, paints, waxes and polishes may be flammable or combustible liquids. Everyone who works with these liquids must be aware of their hazards and how to work safely with them.”
- Hay is Combustible! – We all know this but it’s worth repeating. What’s the most common combustible that’s found in a barn? Hay, of course!
Hay creates moisture. Moisture creates bacteria. Bacteria multiply and create heat. And this heat, can create fire.
It’s that simple. Store your hay properly, keeping it well vented and in a separate building, if possible.
- Fire Prevention and Detection Devices – Many horse owners have some kind of fire prevention and detection device in their barn but, why stop at one? Nowadays, technology makes these items much more accessible, affordable, and easy to install. There are smoke alarms, heat detectors, sprinkler systems, fire extinguishers, and more. Hardwire and connect these devices in when possible, and put them on the inside and outsides of your barn – especially the extinguishers.
- Call in the Professionals – Despite all the fall fire safety checks you can do on your own, it is a good idea to go ahead and call in the professionals every once in awhile. You can schedule fire prevention officers, electricians, and plumbers – all of who will give you a fresh point of view and point out dangerous areas that you might not have noticed. Fire prevention specialists that are familiar with the farm industry will be well versed in hay storage, barn flammables, or high risk items. Electricians can spot electrical problems that aren’t apparent and a plumber will check all of your water sources and lines, making sure you’ll be able to respond to emergency situations properly.
- No Tolerance No Smoking Policies – If you smoke, quit. If you can’t quit, build a cement smoke house structure on the property and require all lighters and smokables to be stored there. No exception. Your horses, and maybe family, are at stake.
There’s a lot to absorb about fire safety on farms. But there’s also a lot to lose. It’s more than the financial loss. People lose their lives, equine friends, and family estates, which can be devastating for years to come. Farm workers lose their jobs and their families suffer in turn… all because of improper fire safety at the worksite. Start now, building a plan that will help you and your help develop new habits, while abandoning the old. Part of that can be accomplished by creating a physical checklist of fall farm chores – and winter, spring, and summer. We agree with Perth East Fire Safety (see video above) when they say there’s more at stake than the barn. Please take their, and our, advice and call in experts to evaluate your horse barn today. It’s the smart thing to do.
For some final thoughts, if you can’t budget for a professional to come out and do a fall fire safety inspection right now, consider using Equine Guelph’s Barn Fire Prevention tool. They recently released it, after working to create it in partnership with fire protection professionals. This interactive set of questions will work with you to assess 20 important areas, helping you with your horse barn fire safety.