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Texas Emergency Management ONLINE 2015 Vol. 62 No. 2

The Texas A&M Veterinary Emergency Team

Texas Vet

Above: Capacity - The Texas A&M Veterinary Emergency Team maintains one of the largest and most sophisticated caches of equipment dedicated to veterinary medical response in the country. The equipment is truck and trailer based with medical, surgical, laboratory, and command/control platforms available to deploy depending on the size of the deployment.

The Texas A&M Veterinary Emergency Team (Texas A&M VET) is the only state-level veterinary medical care provider in Texas’ Emergency Response Plan. In addition to being the nation’s largest in terms of daily patient capacity and equipment cache, the team also is the most sophisticated in terms of the depth and breadth of veterinary medical care provided in a disaster situation – a powerful combination of personnel and equipment that personifies the prowess of the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) throughout the State of Texas and beyond during times of disaster.

The mission of the Veterinary Emergency Team has multiple facets, including:

  • Robust but scalable response capabilities to meet the needs of the State from the smallest search and rescue mission to the largest man-made or natural disaster.
  • Critical educational and outreach efforts developed to improve emergency preparedness and response capabilities across the state.
  • Commitment to discovery and development of new knowledge in the field of preparedness and response.
  • Devotion to service of our state, our college, our students, and our team.
Ebola Response

Above: Ebola - Two members of the Texas A&M Veterinary Emergency Team leadership, Dr. Wesley Bissett and Dr. Deb Zoran, were part of the response to the dog exposed to Ebola in Dallas, TX. Working collaboratively with other response organizations, Drs. Bissett and Zoran developed the nation's first standard operating guidelines for responding to animals exposed to Ebola (and other infectious diseases).

In the fulfillment of our response missions, the Texas A&M VET has deployed to a variety of disasters, including the Bastrop Complex Wildfires, the West TX fertilizer plant explosion, 2014 Ebola response and has supported multiple canine search teams deployed to assist in missing persons searches.

The Texas A&M VET has also maintained an aggressive education and outreach program aimed at transferring emergency preparedness and response knowledge gained through our deployment experience to the citizens, veterinarians, and emergency response officials of the state of Texas.

Through collaborative partnerships with counties and communities around the state, the team engages in the following activities:

  • Working with county officials to develop emergency response standard operating guidelines
  • Providing web-based templates for standard operating guideline development
  • Presenting cross-discipline continuing education presentations
  • Assisting other Texas A&M System schools with development of animal related emergency response plans and guidelines

Beyond invaluable statewide service, the Texas A&M VET provides one-of-a-kind educational experiences for fourth-year veterinary medical students, whose training includes working side-by-side with emergency managers, animal issues committees, Texas Animal Health Commission personnel, agricultural extension specialists, and veterinarians to help develop standard operating guidelines for animal sheltering, evacuation and veterinary medical operations. In addition to more robust preparation, this Texas A&M VET-piloted program has helped initiate new policy -- the nation’s first required clinical experience in veterinary medical emergency preparedness and response.

Radiation

Above: Radiation - The members of the Texas A&M Veterinary Emergency Team are committed to holding regular training exercises to hone important response skills. For the past two years, this has involved working through difficult scenarios involving both working dogs and companion animals impacted by a radiation hazard. This training has provided the opportunity for the team to participate on a national stage in developing response protocols for the decontamination of animals involved in a radiation event.

Cutting edge simulation techniques are used to create an exceptional educational environment for students learning how to navigate and work in a disaster environment. The simulations and partnerships with county officials provide the opportunity to teach students essential life skills such as leadership, teamwork, communications, and an appreciation for diversity. Currently, the team is exploring the feasibility of exporting the curriculum for the rotation, making it accessible to students at other institutions. These efforts will ensure that future generations of veterinarians are equipped to address the issues that arise when animals are impacted by disaster.

Through innovative educational experiences, engaging outreach efforts, and deploying a highly trained and equipped team of veterinarians, veterinary technicians, and support personnel, the Texas A&M VET is the leader in ensuring that animal issues are addressed in times of disaster.


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