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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
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,
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
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