Reduce your risk of barn fire--and keep your horses safe--with careful maintenance, planning and attention to barn fire prevention. | Photo by Kate Lindon
1. Start outside. If you live in an area where wildfires are a possibility, make sure you clear a 50-foot firebreak around your barn. Remove brush, trees, tall grass and debris.
2. Protect against lightning. Intall a grounded lightning rod system to protect your barn in electrical storms.
3. Try to have both a water supply and a power supply installed outside your barn. Keep a hose attached to your external water supply.
4. Install smoke detectors. Detectors and alarms that sense heat and smoke can save critical time if a fire does start. Make sure you check them regularly (at least twice a year). You may also wish to connect the smoke alarms with a loud, external siren or an alarm that will sound somewhere it can be heard if no one is in the barn.
5. Store hay and combustibles like shavings in a separate building. Some insurance companies require hay to be stored in a separate building, so check with your agent.
6. Make sure that the hay you store is cured properly and that it's kept dry. Wet hay can start fires through spontaneous combustion.
7. Don't use extension cords. If you really need to, use an industrial-grade cord and don't overload it.
8. Check electrical cords for damage, and replace any that may have been chewed by mice or squirrels.
9. Consider installing a sprinkler system. While the initial investment may seem high, check with your insurance agent to see if he or she offers discounts for barns with sprinklers. Some may cut your annual premium by as much as 50 percent.
10. Place fire extinguishers within reach. Place them every 40 feet or consider keeping one at each entrance, in the tack room and near feed storage. Make sure they're charged and protected from freezing.
11. Keep your barn clean. Dust and cobwebs are fire hazards, as are oily rags and paper towels.
12. Cage all electric light fixtures.
13. Keep a halter and leadrope on every stall door. Consider marking each with glow-in-the-dark paint or reflectors.
14. Ban smoking in your barn (and within 20-30 feet, at least). Post "No Smoking" signs and enforce the ban.
15. Post directions to your barn next to the phone.
16. Keep important numbers where you can find them quickly and have an emergency plan in place -- along with a plan for how emergency equipment could access your barn most quickly.
Ask your local fire department to do a walk-through of your barn to point out other fire-prevention steps you can take. If fire does break out, keep your cool -- and your priorities:
- Get people of out of your barn.
- Call the fire department.
- Get your horses out if you can do so without risking human lives.
- Use fire extinguishers and/or hoses -- but only if you can do so safely.
- Step aside when the fire crew arrives and let the pros handle it.