First Responders Train for Animal Emergencies

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By Jean A. Flanagan
Moorefield Examiner –

“At any given time there are 400,000 head of cattle being transported on America’s roads every day. The chances are great that some of them will be involved in a motor vehicle accident.”

These startling statistics  led Hardy County West Virginia University Extension Agent David Workman, along with a team of bovine specialists, to develop the Bovine Emergency Response Plan (BERP). Development of the plan was supported by grants from the National Cattleman Beef Association and the US Department of Agriculture. “This has been several years in the making, but the more we learn from others’ experiences, the more we learn,” Workman said.

Workman, along with Jerry Yates of West Virginia University Reymann Memorial Farm, John Welton of Welton Trucking, Lisa Pederson of the North Dakota State University, Dr. Jan Shearer from Iowa State University and Dr. Steve Boyles from The Ohio State University, presented a one-day class outlining BERP for first responders on Saturday, Dec. 14.

“It was snowy, but these guys go out in bad weather anyway,” Workman laughed. “The Department of Highway guys didn’t come because they were busy clearing the roads.”

The workshop attracted 18 participants including a Sheriff’s Deputy from Hancock County, a Clarksburg City Police Officer,   representatives from Capon Springs Emergency Medical Services, the Greenbrier County Office of Emergency Management, several WV Department of Agriculture employees and Hardy County Sheriff’s Deputies.

“Law enforcement and other first responders have to deal with animals in addition to dealing with humans,” Workman said. “Standard operating procedures for accidents involving animals do not exist. We did this because of the safety of the first responders and the public and for the genuine desire to relieve the suffering of animals. In a traffic accident, the damage to the animals can be horrific.”

The plan starts at the dispatch center. If the dispatcher determines there are animals involved in the accident, they ask a series of questions to determine the extent of the animal involvement. The Bovine Emergency Response Team is summoned if warranted. “The site of an accident is not the time to develop a team,” Workman said.

Specific protocols should be followed if cattle are involved. Extricating cattle from a trailer that has been flipped on its side is extremely dangerous and should not be attempted until a temporary containment structure is in place. “I’ve suggested to the Department of Highways that they have several of the cattle gates on wheels so they can triage the animals once they’re removed from the trailer,” Workman said.

Containment of cattle is paramount for public and first responder safety. 

First Responders Train for Animal Emergencies
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