October 21, 2010
Texas emergency response
in the modern era has been defined by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita
in 2005, Hurricane Ike in 2008, and the Bastrop Wildfire Complex in
2011. The Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine &
Biomedical Sciences (CVM) has a history of lending a helping hand
in times of emergency. During Hurricane Rita, the Large Animal
Hospital was converted to a surge hospital for special needs
patients. The faculty, staff, and students provided a safe haven
from the storm for more than 350 evacuees. In addition, faculty,
staff, and students participated in organizing and running a
companion animal emergency shelter in Brazos County, providing
shelter for more than 700 animals evacuated from the coastal
regions of Texas.
During the post-Katrina era, CVM faculty became actively
involved in developing emergency response plans at the county
level. The first test of these new plans occurred in 2008 when
Hurricane Ike came ashore in Galveston, and 200 large animals were
evacuated from the coast and housed in the Brazos County Emergency
Hurricane Ike demonstrated
that increased veterinary capacity was needed in the emergency
response structure. The Texas Animal Health Commission, the lead
agency in emergency response on behalf of animals at the state
level, requested that the CVM provide this additional capacity.
Faculty and staff at the CVM developed plans to provide an
emergency response team and the Texas A&M Veterinary Emergency
Team (VET) was formed.
The mission of the VET is to provide veterinary medical support
for animals in disaster situations. This includes the canine search
and rescue teams attached to Texas Task Force One. The team also
educates and trains veterinary students by offering elective
courses in emergency response and management within the first three
years of the veterinary curriculum.
The 2011 Bastrop Wildfire Complex was the first major deployment
for the VET. The team was deployed with Texas Task Force One and
through the care of the VET, the search and rescue dogs were able
to work six consecutive days and complete their assigned mission in
a state of exceptional physical health. In addition, the VET
triaged more than 150 animals injured during the wildfire, making
the inaugural deployment an overwhelming success.
success of the first deployment was not without important lessons
learned. The VET is equipped with a mobile and self-sufficient
veterinary triage trailer. However, the VET must be more mobile and
able to change locations at a much more rapid pace. The VET also
needs to advance its educational efforts by building a facility for
training and adding to its faculty and staff.
Contributing to the VET makes you a valuable part of the team
working to provide the best in emergency response to animals in the
state of Texas.
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