Notification this month came to John Haven (director of Medical/Health Administration at the College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Florida) that he has been officially appointed as chair to the National Fire Protection Association Committee 1670’s new taskgroup on Animal Technical Rescue.
Why should we care? This is a huge leap forward for both the large and small animal technical rescue community in the United States. It indicates that the fire service is realizing that coalescing the standards, methods, tactics, and procedures for responding in an ICS manner to animal incidents with extrication that might require the specialty tools and methods of technical Rope and mechanical advantage, Swiftwater, confined space, trench, etc. forms of heavy rescue applied to a scenario with an animal involved (large or small). It shows that efforts on many fronts by professionals in a variety of areas related to animals is paying off by the NFPA taking this new direction so seriously.
With everyone following standards, the ability to use mutual aid from other emergency services, and understanding the capabilities of teams especially what they can and can’t do is crucial to improving responses. Additionally, a source of frustration has been how to get Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) or Technical Rescue Teams (TRT) trained to do any kind of animal rescue, when there are no standards? (Although this training is a requirement for them since the 2006 PETS act--see http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/109/hr3858 )
Some Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) have been unwilling to authorize their responders to risk injury during a response, and they have been unable to spend training dollars or buy equipment because there was no standard or mandate. Getting animal technical rescue incorporated in the Team Capability document, will open the door to using Homeland Security Training dollars to train the professional emergency responder. Committee 1670 is the just tip of the iceberg--it will be followed with work in Committee 1006 to identify individual responder training, and Committee 1983 will further address equipment. Fortunately, the AEL (Approved Equipment List) now lists most large animal technical rescue equipment and will add more specialty equipment based on the suggestions from this committee.
The visibility that has been given to animal technical rescue over the last 20 years is impressive, and the professionalism that is growing within the fire services across the country in large animal rescue and the technical components of these discipline continues. This professional approach for large animals began in the Western United States with a curriculum that CPT John and Debra Fox initiated in California getting their class recognized as a Technical Rescue course, approved by the California State Fire Marshall which adopted the training necessary for LAR response through the Fire Services Training and Education Program in California. Simultaneously, in the Eastern US, Dr's. Tomas and Rebecca Gimenez were developing a training curriculum at the Awareness, Operations and Technical echelon to provide appropriate levels of involvement and hands on training for a variety of students from veterinarians, emergency responders and large animal owners--which came to fruition in the 2008 textbook "Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue." Across the world, jurisdictions are intiating response team development, conducting training and purchasing equipment for those personnel.
John Haven was one of the first Vet School Directors to realize the impact that small and large animal emergency rescue training would have on the professional veterinarian--and he began offering courses in 2006 as well as initiating the development of the UF College of Veterinary Medicine “VETS Team”, which has been involved in hurricane response, disease outbreaks, hoarding cases, and of course technical rescues both large and small. The UF “VETS Team” has been a model for other colleges, and is one of the largest non-Federal response teams in the country. His involvement and leadership with the Florida SART (State Animal Response Team) and NAASEP (National Alliance of State Animal and Agricultural Emergency Programs) have propelled him to national recognition for his interaction at all levels (local, state and nationa). His efforts and training in numerous aspects of technical rescue for humans as well as horses make him eminently qualified to chair this appointed group. He has mentioned that he will welcome any input to the standards development as it is an ongoing and monumental process.
Additionally this month, I was appointed to the Technical Committee for the NFPA 150 Standard: STANDARD ON FIRE AND LIFE SAFETY IN ANIMAL HOUSING FACILITIES--the next edition will be published in 2013. I will be looking for assistance and suggestions as they apply to animal facilities related to fire preparation, prevention and response. If you have pictures, anecdotes, products or ideas related to barn fires in any type of animal facility--I would like to ask you to share it with me at my personal email email@example.com
These appointments provide a real step forward and an outstanding opportunity to professionals outside of the fire service to bring their experience, network of colleagues, veterinary oversight, and technical expertise to these standards to improve the standard response to animal technical rescue scenarios.