Fire Plans and Drills

Written by Horse Safety Specialist, Michelle Staples

Here are some questions to ask yourself as you design your fire plan:

  • Do I need to rearrange the parking area so that emergency vehicles have a clearer access and room to turn around?
  • Do emergency vehicles have easy access to my property?
  • Do I have defensible space around the stable or do I need to clear up debris or vegetation?
  • Where are the fire extinguishers located? Do we need more?  Are they ready to use?  Does everyone know how to USE a fire extinguisher?
  • Where are the halters and lead ropes?  There should be a set outside every occupied stall.
  • Will the horses leave the stable?  Can they be blindfolded?  How will they react to firefighters in turnout gear? Train your horses with firefighters in SCBA gear.  This new type of human, combined with the awful smell that accompanies them, can un-nerve even the most bomb-proof horse.
  • Are the most vulnerable horses stabled closest to the exits?
  • Is there a phone in the stable? If the stable is large, are there phones at each end of the stable?
  • Are emergency numbers posted by the phone?  Who gets called?
  • Is there a hose at each end of the stable?  Are they long enough to reach down one length of the stable?

A large boarding stable came up with a great idea.  The owners put a box near the main entrance, similar to the “break glass in case of fire” boxes you see in commercial buildings.  Inside this particular box were 20 white lead ropes — enough so that each horse would have one — wrapped with reflective strips, with large, easy to handle snaps.

A small reflective metal sign next to the box had instructions for rescuers:

  1. Stand on the left side of the horse and clip the rope to the halter (headgear).  If the horse does not have on a halter, clip rope around horse’s neck.
  2. After exiting the stall, close the stall door behind the horse.
  3. Lead horse to safety area, marked X on map. Secure safety area after horse is inside. Horses are herd animals – they feel safer in groups.
  4. Emergency numbers, such as vets, police, fire, owners, etc., were then listed, as well as directions to the property with distinguishing landmarks. A map with the stable layout was posted next to the sign.

This is an inexpensive and responsible way to help your local rescue people save the horses in your stable.

Plan to hold fire drills, especially if you house horses for other people.  Here are some ideas to get you started.

  • Hold a meeting to talk about fires, the strengths and weaknesses of your stable, and the roles that will be activated in the event of a fire.
  • Practice using fire extinguishers.
  • Hold a “Fire Ready” day with boarders, to clean up the stable area and make it safe.
  • Plan a meeting between local horse owners and fire personnel. Learn the typical response time in your area and what the fire departments would like you to do to help make their job easier.
  • If you have young boarders have a “safety day”. Hide “fire” – this could be either pieces of red cloth glued onto cardboard, plywood “flames”, or sheets of colored paper with the word “fire” printed on them – in inconspicuous places like the hay loft, a pasture, the tack room – then send the kids out with cardboard fire extinguishers. When they find the fire they have to leave their extinguishers at the spot and bring back the “fire”. Another idea is a scavenger hunt. Hunted articles could be fire, dummy fire extinguishers, cards next to phones with “call 9-1-1” written on them, pictures of hose hidden under your barn hose.  The possibilities are endless!  And fun!

Written by Horse Safety Specialist, Michelle Staples. Her book, Save Your Horse!  A Horse Owner’s Guide to Large Animal Rescue, is available at or the Large Animal Rescue website,

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