One Health: Animals in Disasters initiative for the State of California
The University of California at Davis School of Veterinary Medicine International Animal Welfare Training Institute is the leader of the One Health Animals in Disasters initiative for the State of California.
The One Health concept is a worldwide strategy for expanding interdisciplinary collaborations and communications in all aspects of health care for humans, animals and the environment.
Care for Animals in Disasters and Emergencies
We at IAWTI have identified a key area of the One Health concept: protecting the health and wellbeing of humans and animals during times of disasters and emergency responses involving animals. This involves bringing awareness, training and integration of veterinary medicine to first responders, private practice veterinarians, disaster response workers, emergency planners and the many volunteers who come to the aid of animals and people in large scale disaster events.
Emergency responses involving animals occur frequently. When a horse or livestock trailer overturns on the highway and the owner tries to attend to the animals trapped and struggling in the trailer, or the horses or livestock become loose on the roadway there is a significant risk to human safety and a risk for the animals. When the first responders of the local fire department arrive their safety is at risk as well. The situation may require a response from a veterinarian to provide sedation, anesthesia or emergency treatment in the emergency response.
In a major disaster such as a fire, and a town or city must evacuate, we know people won't leave without their animals and this puts them at risk. When people do evacuate and arrive at a shelter location they expect to have a place to care for their animals. People have less stress, and cope better when the entire family- animals included, are together or not separated completely; and some will come with their horses and other animals. We are working with our shelter medicine program here, the Red Cross and emergency planners to make sure the training for the animal component is in place for disasters and emergencies.
Training – a key component
A grant from Cal-EMA (California Emergency Management Agency) to our program last year allowed us to addresses the public health and safety aspects of animals in disasters and emergencies from mass care and sheltering of animals to the safety of fire department personnel responding to emergency calls involving animal roadway trailer accidents, animals trapped in mud or water, and loose or injured wildlife or livestock in public places. Additionally we are working to bring the needed veterinary component to these situations. We serve as the base of operations for training programs to develop collaborations and capabilities state wide with county emergency planners, first responders, organized veterinary medicine including CVMA and local veterinary associations, California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) CARES program, and volunteer groups (NGO's) involved in animal sheltering. We have created training modules by credentialed – board certified veterinary experts utilizing peer external review to create state of the art training programs. This is the training arm needed to develop the response to society's expectation of integrated care of animals in disasters and emergencies.
This past year we hosted forums and meetings, conducted pilot trainings and traveled to meet with county representatives to coordinate and enhance the animal in disaster emergency component. We are proud of these fundamental first efforts and have great plans for 2012.
Sustainability of programs for disaster and emergency response has been an issue and prevented well-intended efforts from creating local capabilities for animals in disasters in each county in the State of California. We believe having training available is a key component to meet this challenge. By creating training modules, which are Department of Homeland Security approved, government agencies that qualify for DHS training dollars can spend those DHS dollars on training locally. This, combined with a planned 'train the trainer' program will bring the required trainings to local communities.
The role of veterinarians
We are encouraged by attempts to integrate veterinarians into disaster and emergency response. The newly created California Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) Medical Reserve Corp (MRC) is a group of volunteer veterinarians who can serve as a source of veterinary effort upon activation via the state EMSA system. Additionally, county VERT (veterinary emergency response teams) such as the UC Davis Veterinary Medical Reserve Corp MRC are means of responding to local needs or requests for assistance via mutual aid agreements.
We have proposed an Emergency Services Protocol and Fund that would provide specific trainings for veterinarians for calls that come to them via 911 when a veterinarian is needed to work with first responders in an urgent emergency rescue or response involving animals. A similar program in the United Kingdom has been in effect for over 5 years and is highly successful. We are petitioning the CVMA Foundation to consider developing this fund.
A major effort is the creation of trainings for veterinarians of the future and this involves putting disaster and emergency response into the veterinary curriculum. At this time the training of veterinary students in ICS, and emergency response has been done by the VERT training program as part of IAWTI and done on student free time. It is hoped the curriculum revisions underway will bring this important component to mainstream veterinary education and graduate veterinarians who are trained and ready to be of service to society in disaster and emergency response.
Modules completed and submitted to DHS by IAWTI this past year:
Guidelines for Establishing an Emergency Animal Shelter: Veterinary Considerations
Loose Livestock, Injured Wildlife and Humane Euthanasia of Animals for First Responders: Level 1
First Responder Guidelines for Equine Emergencies: Level 1
Veterinary Emergency Response Guidelines for Equine Veterinarians
Our work is far from done. But we are proud of the accomplishments of this past year and look forward to taking the One Health concept for disaster and emergency needs to the entire State of California in 2012. We look forward to working with other entities- the CVMA, Red Cross, fire departments, law enforcement, animal services and county and state emergency planners to meet the goal of this One Health initiative.