With warnings of possible bioterroist attacks in the air, it seems appropriate that the newly formed AVMA Committee on Disaster and Emergency Issues recently held its first meeting. While the committee's birth might seem driven by recent events, however, it's not; the idea for its development actually precedes the events of Sept. 11.
As part of its long-range plan, the AVMA Emergency and Disaster Task Force asked the AVMA Executive Board to form the committee on June 21, 2001. The task force felt that the growing number of emergency and disaster issues were too broad to be handled by the existing AVMA entities. The board recognized the problem and established the CDEI on Nov. 1, 2001, and the committee had its first meeting in late August.
The committee's mission is to address veterinarians' role in emergency and disaster issues; address the effects of disasters on animal health, public health, and the veterinary profession; help develop AVMA position statements on disaster and emergency issues that affect the veterinary profession; and develop guidelines for veterinarians regarding various aspects of disaster situations.
"Overall, the CDEI will serve the veterinary profession well, by identifying the role veterinarians should play in disaster and emergency preparedness and response; identifying areas where the veterinary profession is underutilized; and implementing initiatives to better educate veterinarians about disasters, emergencies, and foreign and emerging animal diseases," said Dr. Cindy Lovern, AVMA assistant director of emergency preparedness and response.
At their first meeting, CDEI members elected Dr. Barry N. Kellogg as chair and Lt. Col. Dr. Peggy N. Carter as vice chair for 2002-2003. In addition to agreeing to continue ongoing efforts such as developing the brochure "What Veterinarians Need to Know After a Disaster Strikes," the committee identified several new action items. They agreed to investigate approaching the Federal Emergency Management Agency about professional veterinary care being provided during the full deployment of urban search-and-rescue dogs. Currently, the Urban Search and Rescue Team part of the Federal Response Plan does not include a position for a veterinarian.
The committee members also agreed to recommend that the AVMA Executive Board re-sign the existing memorandum of understanding with the American National Red Cross, but only after making some revisions to narrow the scope of responsibilities.
And the committee also decided to contact veterinary schools, the Department of Agriculture, and other organizations twice a year for pertinent disaster-related tutorial materials that may be put on the AVMA Web site for member access.
Currently, the CDEI has eight representatives representing various areas: Dr. Barry N. Kellogg, Veterinary Medical Assistance Teams; Lt. Col. (Dr.) Peggy N. Carter, armed services; Dr. G. Thomas Holder, poultry medicine; Dr. Maynard B. Jones, small animal practice; Dr. Sarah A. Lister, Committee on Environmental Issues; Dr. John E. Madigan, equine practice; Dr. James G. Thorne, food animal practice; and Dr. Jim Watson, federal and state public health agencies.
This number may grow, however, as the committee has already recognized two more key areas where representatives would be beneficial. To fill the gap, the committee will invite a USDA-APHIS consultant to attend all CDEI meetings, and it will ask the AVMA Executive Board to approve the addition of a committee member under the category "state animal health agency."
At the close of the meeting, the CDEI decided to meet again in February. It will revisit some of the same issues discussed at the August meeting, but members already have a wealth of ideas about future committee directions. Dr. Lovern said, "Some of the committee's future topics for discussion include wildlife/aquaculture issues, national livestock identification, food security at the breeding/processing level, resource gathering/distribution, education initiatives, closing the gap between disease identification and action, and model legislation development."