What do I need to do to make sure my barn is safe?
Wow - this is a super huge list of things for us to be weary about, but if you take the time to monitor and maintain your barn, you are light years ahead in terms of safety. So we can break this down into a couple of categories -
- Things that should not be in the barn
- Things that we need in the barn, and therefore let’s make them super safe
- Other stuff around the property
For starters, there are some things that should not be in the barn, and ideally should not be even close to the barn.
- Hay (you can read more about hay storage here.) Hay is pretty much expensive fire kindling, and can self combust if it was baled while wet and you just don’t know it.
- Shavings storage or waste shavings pile. Some shavings can resist fire, like rice hulls, and other types of shavings are just plain kindling.
- Fertilizers containing ammonium nitrate (this can explode in a fire).
- Pretty much any hazardous material, or some non hazardous materials that are past their expiration date or have separated into their components. This is a super time to do some spring cleaning and properly dispose of or move these types of materials. Pay special attention to petroleum based products and products in pressurized containers.
- Farm vehicles. These can leak gases (which can settle and be ignited by a horse shoe), they can backfire, they can throw sparks. Their parts can also get so hot that they can ignite dust or debris in the barn aisle. Store them far away and don’t drive down the barn aisle. This includes tractors, golf carts, and other farm vehicles.
- Dust and cobwebs are also great kindling and can spread fire like, well, wildfire. Cobwebs get coated in dust, and provide wonderful little paths for fire to travel across your barn. Cleaning the walls, rafters, etc. weekly takes only a few minutes if you keep up with it.
What about some things that we must have in the barn? Let’s make those things easy to use and safe to have around.
- All electrical wiring should be checked on a regular basis by a certified or licensed electrician. The neighbor’s cousin’s dog walker who once changed a light bulb doesn’t count. You want to electrician to make sure that the wiring is in good condition, the fuses are in good shape, and the outlets are working well.
- Speaking of electrical stuff, your outlets should be covered when not in use. Your appliances should be unplugged when not in use.
- All wiring should be covered by metal, not PVC, tubing. Rodents and birds and horses can destroy PVC and start to chew on wires.
- Make sure your master electrical box is, at the very least, on the outside of the building. Further away is even better still.
- Fans need to have auto-off switches or fuses that shut down the fans if they overheat. Some fans are commercial, and some are residential. Either way, make sure your fan has the appropriate safety mechanism. Using your horse vacuum or heavy duty shop vacuum to dust fans is a great idea and super easy.
- Keep a well stocked and up to date first aid kit for people (in addition to your horse kit) in the barn.
- Have up to date fire extinguishers in the barn in very clearly marked locations. Hiding them to be more stylish reduces the chances that you will remember where they are if you need one. (Have your local fire department make a visit and help you place them.) Also be sure to have the correct type. You should not need a “grease fire” fire extinguisher at the barn.
- Use surge protectors for things that are always on, like a freezer.
- Have a land line phone at the barn. Cellular service often is disruptive or inconsistent between carriers, and a land line phone will tell 911 immediately where you are.
- Most barns have light bulbs, or light strips. Try and have cages over them for a bit of protection.
- Horse stall signs should include valuable information - phone numbers, allergies, vital signs. A master phone list can also be hung next to the land line phone.
For the rest of your property, may also need to consider a few things.
- Can emergency vehicles get in and out easily? If you have a lot of options (multiple driveways or different roads), have your fire department visit your property. If you ever need them, do you want to be out there directing traffic, or do you want to be getting horses and people to safety? If you don’t have a lot of options, the fire department will still need to know how to get in or out. They can also look around and see if you can make some improvements in the fire safety area.
- Do you need to mow a fire break? If you have drought or dry conditions, brush and weeds can cause your farm to go up in smoke. Plan on mowing or harrowing fire breaks in between pastures and outside of your fence line. Plan on making your fire break about 20 feet wide. Mow weeds and control pasture heights (This is good for tick and chigger control, too.)
What other things do you do to help keep your barn as one of the safest?