VANCOUVER, 4 FEBRUARY 2001 - In light of the recent tragic barn fire in Port Colborne, Ontario which killed 155 cattle, rabbits and chickens, The Humane Society of Canada (HSC) wants to remind animal caretakers of the importance of being prepared for an emergency. “You can never be too prepared when it comes to a disaster such as a barn fire,” warns Al Hickey, Western Regional Director of The Humane Society of Canada. “Preparing for such an emergency, including having an evacuation plan, is a very wise, potentially life-saving, thing to do,” continues Hickey.


“Prevention is the best way to deal with potential disaster situations” advises Michael O’Sullivan, HSC Executive Director, “but being prepared should an emergency occur and staying calm are also important.” Some preventative measures that can be taken to help avert fires and other disasters include the following:


  • Store fuel and other flammable materials in an approved safety container away from buildings housing animals (or people)
  • Check electrical systems and ensure that they are in good working condition, free of dust, dirt, cobwebs and combustible material like hay
  • Don’t permit oil or gas burning lamps, candles or other flammable materials in barns or other buildings housing animals
  • Post “no smoking” signs and make sure that they are adhered to
  • Make sure that hay and straw are dry or well-cured and stored away from buildings housing animals
  • Many farm buildings are old; roofs should be kept in good repair and free from accumulations of snow should be removed as required.
  • Protect light bulbs from animals and make sure that wiring and electrical fixtures are inaccessible to (or protected from) animals
  • If your animals have access to a fenced in yard, leave the barn door open, because most farm animals, and especially horses, are flight animals and flee at the first sign of danger
  • Some people who keep horses and other animals have even gone so far as to ensure that there are no electrical outlets or appliances at all in the barn area
  • Report any suspected cases of arson immediately to the local police and your insurance company. Arson and fraud investigators have years of experience and a wide range of investigative and forensic techniques at their disposal, and offenders are almost always caught and punished

In the event that a disaster situation does occur it is important not to panic and to be prepared. Some things that can be done now to be prepared should an emergency arise are:

  • Have a plan for a safe and efficient evacuation and for dealing with emergency situations such as fires. Rehearse this plan with the appropriate people including family, neighbours, boarders etc.
  • Equip barns, homes and other buildings with numerous fire extinguishers and smoke detectors and make sure that these are kept in good working order. If possible install a more elaborate fire alarm system that is connected to the house in outbuildings that house animals
  • Keep a well-stocked first aid kit (one is available from The Humane Society of Canada) on hand along with your veterinarian’s phone number (including their emergency phone number)
  • Install a phone in the barn so that a fire, or other emergency, can be reported quickly
  • Keep halters and lead ropes in a convenient location
  • Have a long garden hose hooked up to a water supply
  • Ensure that there are an appropriate number of exits and that they are kept free of debris and obstacles and the doors are maintained in good working order
  • Have tools and other equipment on hand - items such as a long ladder, garden hose with spray nozzle, shovel, rake, water bucket, blanket etc.
  • Have a list of the animals on the premises
  • Put a decal in appropriate places indicating that animals reside inside (such a sticker is available from The Humane Society of Canada)

“There are many things that you can do now to protect your animals from potential disaster. Don’t wait until it is too late,” says O’Sullivan.

For more information on obtaining a Humane Society of Canada Animal First Aid Kit or a Humane Society of Canada Animal Emergency Decal call toll-free 1-800-641-KIND (5463.) or visit our website at

CONTACT: Michael O'Sullivan by toll free 1-800-641-KIND or Michael on his cell phone (416) 876-9685 or at via twitter at and on Facebook at:

[For more than 17 years, Al Hickey was the Chief Executive of the BC SPCA and before that headed up the Alberta and BC Chambers of Commerce, and was the Executive Director of the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Vancouver. He has been The HSC Western Regional Director for over 12 years. He has 4 children and 6 grandchildren. For his lifetime of achievement dedicated to helping people, animals and the environment, we have bestowed upon him our prestigious Heroes for Animals Award, shared by only a handful of people and organizations.

A father with two children, and a houseful of dogs and cats, Michael O'Sullivan has worked across Canada and in over 110 countries during the last 40 years helping people, animals and nature.]

The Humane Society of Canada (HSC) works to protect dogs, cats, horses, birds, rabbits and small animals, livestock, lab animals, wildlife and the environment. We carry out hands on programs to help animals and nature, mount rescue operations, expose cruelty through hard hitting undercover investigations, work to pass laws to protect animals, use a multidisciplinary approach, support animal shelters and wildlife rehabilitation centres, and spread the word about how to help animals and nature through humane education.

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