Many of our Penn State Extension educators are actively engaged in various emergency response planning/training for animals. Ms. Spahr, a member of our Livestock Natural Working Group, addressed an interesting point below … that there was once a time when firefighters and other emergency responders in rural/suburban areas had some experience working with livestock, but that may no longer be the case. If you’ve ever watched “cows on the loose” or something similar on the evening news, you’ve seen that point documented. Images of the 5-0 chasing cattle with sirens blaring and lights flashing come to mind …
Central Pennsylvania emergency responders learn how to save farm animals
By IVEY DEJESUS, The Patriot-News
March 10, 2010, 9:00PM
Emergency response crews learn about large animal rescue at the Farm Show Complex on Wednesday. ANN FOSTER, The Patriot-News Firefighters, EMTs and other first responders are used to saving lives from burning buildings, overturned vehicles and other emergency situations. But many face unfamiliar territory when the lives in danger are the animal kind and the variety is large livestock. It’s a fairly common situation in central Pennsylvania.
As part of this year’s Homeland Security Conference, the South Central Task Force’s Agriculture Sub-committee today trained first responders from across the Harrisburg region in the rescue of large animals, including cattle, horses, sheep, alpacas, goats and swine.
“We feel we are cutting edge,” said Linda Spahr of the Penn State Cooperative Extension. “Most respondents are not trained. When I was growing up, most firefighters were farmers, so they were used to being around animals. Now we find 90 percent have no training with animals.”
An overriding concern should always be the safety of the responders, the public, the animal and any rescue animals, such as dogs, involved in the effort, said Spahr, lead trainer of the workshop, which was held at the Pennsylvania State Farm Show Complex and Expo Center.
When faced with loose or injured animals, most emergency responders make a simple first mistake: They chase. “You can chase an animal but you are never going to catch it,” Spahr said.
How a responder approaches a loose or injured animal is critical, Spahr said.
With the help of Spirit, a champion border collie and his owner, Spahr demonstrated how first responders can use the same technique of using three zones — awareness, alertness and action — to round up just about any herding animal.
Responders should always have a plan before taking action and call upon a lot of patience, Spahr said.
Use of peripheral vision also is important. Most animals react to direct eye contact. “As soon as you put your eyes on that animal, you are saying ‘I’m here to eat you,’” Spahr said. “Don’t make eye contact.”
Spahr and other workshop leaders worked with plastic boards and sections of farm pen gates to demonstrate how easily a group of emergency workers can round up and pen animals on the loose.
Jim McHenry of the Dauphin County Hazardous Materials Response Team said it’s rare his company faces situations with cattle, pigs and other farm animals, but every now and then it must respond to an overturned tractor trailer on the highway filled with animals. “For me it’s rare, but it’s important that I know this,” he said.