In this blog, I am trying to focus attention on groups or teams of people who are taking the ideas of large animal and equine technical rescue and implementing it in their communities. Numerous groups across the country are providing equine emergency rescue or even ambulance services to horses and owners within their localities. This week we will take a look at the Milton Technical Large Animal Rescue Unit in Milton, Ga., which has outfitted its department with a cache of large animal equipment, responds to needs within its jurisdiction and region, and is performing training on an ongoing basis.

The Milton unit used a Becker sling to perform a textbook rescue on this mare, who was trapped in mud.

Background: In 2008, Milton, Ga., initiated training in large animal emergency rescue of several of their firefighters and began adding large animal rescue knowledge, equipment and training to the department’s cache and capabilities. Within a matter of weeks, team members were getting calls to assist with horses in mud, overturned or through the floor of trailers, and trapped in various entrapment scenarios.

Battalion Chief Bill Bourn says, “We have had a tremendous response to our TLAER program since its inception in August of 2008. The local equestrian organizations and boarding and training facilities have helped to spread the word about the services we offer.”

The team has responded to numerous incidents (more than 100) during the program's five years and is always happy to help both horses and their owners with a safe, efficient plan for rescue.

A recent example: A news story from the local NBC affiliate highlighted the teams efforts last summer.

Community involvement: Chief Bourn said, “We are frequently asked to bring our equipment trailer to their facilities or to community events to tell about our experiences and to demonstrate some of our rescue techniques. The community understands and accepts the fact that although this service is provided by the fire department and its personnel, the training and equipment used for TLAER incidents is funded solely by donations and that no taxpayer funds are used for this program.”

This donation stream has even allowed Milton to buy one of the Randy Rescue Horse Mannequins that it can utilize for professional training of their personnel, as well as a great prop for educational seminars.

Jurisdictions working together: Milton and its surrounding jurisdictions are working together on these types of incidents. Due to a very large equine population within their response area, and being within the piedmont and mountains of Georgia where there are numerous very active horse trail systems, the teams has many callouts to assist. Milton has mutual aid agreements with Cherokee County and Forsyth County Fire departments. These jurisdictions border the city of Milton and fall within the approved response areas for the team. The biggest obstacle they have faced is getting the public to utilize the 911 system when they need large animal rescue services (instead of calling Milton directly).

The plan currently requires the jurisdiction where the incident has occurred to dispatch one of their units first, then request through the dispatcher a mutual aid request for Milton's team to respond. The dispatcher then calls Milton to respond. This is a work in progress and it continues to get better as time goes on.

Chief Bourn notes, “We also have at least a half dozen large animal veterinarians who are familiar with our program and have agreed to respond (if available) when we request them.”

Ongoing training: The City of Milton Fire Department currently has 17 personnel trained to the operations level, and the entire department has been trained to Milton's "awareness" level, meaning that the personnel is trained to know what each piece of equipment is and what it is used for so they can be safe when working around TLAER incidents. All of our personnel participate to some extent, in TLAER training for the department, and they continue to send personnel each year to get the operations level training.

If you need more specific information about the Milton Technical Large Animal Rescue Unit and program or how you can get your fire department involved in similar efforts, please contact: Bill Bourn, Battalion Chief City of Milton Fire Department, B-Shift, bill.bourn@cityofmiltonga.us, 770-827-1049.

Those of you that have large animal or equine teams or ambulances in your area, please share that information with us on this post. We are always interested to see what is out there--around the country or around the world. Thank you!