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Veterinary Emergency Team

For the past month, wildfires have been racing through north and west Texas, leaving a wide swath of death and destruction behind them.  Over a million acres of pasture, hundreds of cattle, and scores of homes have already been lost, and the main wildfire 'season' - caused by an extremely dry spring - has just begun.

But what exactly does that have to do with the vet school?  In any emergency, the first concern is always the preservation of human life.  However, with each disaster more and more people are asking what can be done for their animals.  In the vast Texas plains, the situation can be incredibly difficult - ranches are spread over hundreds of acres, so it's hard to know exactly where all the herds are at any given time, much less be able to move entire herds of lumbering cattle ahead of the racing flames.  Cities face their own problems of transportation and safety as they have to evacuate thousands of people and pets out of harm's way.

As several of us have blogged already, the vet school has created a Veterinary Emergency Team (or VET) to provide community assistance for scenarios just like the ones above.   Although the team has been on alert for the past month, most communities have been able to cope with the disaster using their local emergency response plan and we have yet to be deployed.

But the current emergencies have reinforced the need for our team's continued training, and this weekend will be the second annual large-scale simulation at Disaster City, Texas A&M's training grounds for emergency response teams.  We'll be working in conjunction with Texas Task Force 1, the urban search-and-rescue team that has been deployed to such disasters like the Twin Towers, the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and more.

This weekend's scenario will involve a natural disaster combined with a biological weapons attack.  Scary? Yes.  Improbable?  Sadly, not really.  Our goal is to seamlessly incorporate both human and veterinary search-and-rescue into a comprehensive response that can tackle just such an event.  In addition, the training it provides us veterinary students will hopefully enable us to provide a network of  support to those teams should they ever have to respond to a disaster in our local areas.

So this weekend, when you're relaxing in your nice air-conditioned house or sleeping in a comfy bed, we'll be out in heat, rescuing 'animals' from collapsed buildings, train wrecks, and more.  I can't wait J.  Oh yeah, and finals are this week too…