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Animal Health Emergencies, A Necessary EM Issue

When was the last time you toured a farm in your area? When was the last time that you sat down and talked to the manager of a large “Mega-farm” facility? Given the perceived lack of impact on our daily EM operations that results from animal health issues, the answer is probably never. Should emergency managers even care about these diseases? The answer to that question is, yes, they totally should.

We will have to support the response to an animal health outbreak in the U.S. Like any outbreak encountered, this is an emergency management issue. This means that EMA’s at all levels need to be prepared. When resources, equipment, and personnel are needed, whom do people come to? Our professions place us in positions where we know all the people and know where to find all the stuff required when responding to emergencies.

The local emergency manager also have unique abilities in that they should be plugged in to the locals, including local farmers and agricultural outfits. A quality local emergency manager knows his community and understands all the potential hazards that it might face and the risks located within it.

Work with animal and agricultural emergencies is an emerging emergency management issue that needs to be faced head-on. The onset is often slow and not easily identified, and when it is, the impact is enormous. In 2015, we experienced the worst-ever outbreak of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) in the U.S. That outbreak affected 21 states and resulted in the deaths of almost 50 million chickens and turkeys. The USDA spent just over $1 billion for 2015 outbreak. This single outbreak also resulted in roughly $1.6 billion in direct losses to growers and companies.[1] If you cannot see the weight of these events for the emergency manager, you need to look closer.

These challenges are not easy to manage and require a tremendous investment of time to accomplish successfully. I would encourage you to set up a time to tour a farm in your community or talk with the manager of a “Mega-farm” facility. There is a need for emergency managers to be ready for everything, including animal health emergencies.


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