“They’re excellent to have on hand to coordinate the removal of the livestock.”
Emergency crews are typically well-prepared for dealing with people who are involved in accidents on Alberta’s roads, but the same can’t be said for the 50,000 to 75,000 animals riding in trucks every day.
Many law enforcement agencies do not have the training to deal with livestock when highway rollovers or accidents involving animals occur, Corporal Dave Heaslip, a livestock investigator with the RCMP, said during a presentation on animal transportation at the Alberta Farm Animal Care (AFAC) conference. Heaslip has assisted in numerous training courses with Jennifer Woods, a livestock handling and emergency transport specialist who helps emergency personnel learn how to deal with livestock.
AFA C set up a program called ALERT, which is designed as a tool for truckers and policeman on the highway. An operator working the call line takes down emergency information, records details and helps gather appropriate support.
Livestock inspectors with the RCMP and on-call veterinarians work with RCMP detachments to gather stray livestock and to offer assistance during highway incidents. “They’re excellent to have on hand to co-ordinate the removal of the livestock,” said Heaslip. “They really know what they’re doing.”
First responders, haulers, police and veterinarians can receive training so they know what to do in the case of a livestock emergency. Responders who are first on the scene at highway incidents involving livestock must deal with both motor vehicle and livestock problems. But in many cases, those responding have no knowledge of livestock or the internal design of livestock transportation trailers.
In addition to a lack of trained respondents, common problems include a lack of understanding for the chain of command, an inability to deal with distressed livestock, and too many people at the scene. During these incidents, human safety needs to be the priority and takes precedence. The welfare of the animals involved in the incident becomes the responsibility of emergency personnel.
Incident response begins with the 911 or ALERT dispatch, which records what types of animals are involved in the incidents, the types of trailers and vehicles, the number of animals involved and whether or not the animals are loose on the road. The dispatcher then must provide this information to the emergency personnel who are heading to the scene of the accident.
The first people who arrive at the scene are expected to provide any new information to dispatch, so this information can be provided to those still on their way. Responders should always remain on alert for loose animals and be aware that lights, sirens and firefighting gear may frighten or startle the animals. All animals should be moved off the road and be grouped together. Since livestock are herd animals, they will calm down more quickly when they are kept in groups.
Responders who are extricating animals from a trailer need to create containment facilities outside the trailer before recovery begins. Some animals may need to be euthanized due to their injuries.
Once the area is secured, responders should determine what kind of equipment is needed, which can include items such as fencing, and handling equipment. Responders may want to have contact information for handlers experienced with the species involved in the accident.
Several municipalities are beginning to create livestock emergency response trailers to help in the case of highway accidents. Heaslip has attended town council meetings to promote the benefits of having livestock emergency trailers in the municipalities.
At this point, livestock emergency trailers can be found in Edmonton, Red Deer and Grande Prairie. The trailers contain basic materials such as panels, ropes, belly boards, plywood and chains.
Heaslip believes that a livestock emergency response trailer is a good resource for many municipalities throughout the province; he would like to see more of them.