By Sara Swann
The Bovine Emergency Response Plan (BERP) offered a one-day course, funded through a State Homeland Security grant, on Monday, June 23 at the State Fairgrounds.
The course was targeted toward first responders (including fire service, law enforcement, and emergency medical services), emergency management, public health officers, public safety communicators, government administrators, veterinarians, and others who may assist in bovine or large animal emergencies.
The purpose of BERP was not only to educate first responders on how to handle an emergency situation involving livestock, but also to establish a network of people to call in order to effectively address the current emergency.
In addition, BERP will help outline the responsibilities of each first responder who arrives at the scene and provide a template for 911 dispatchers.
The program included informational sessions on transportation and weather hazards, euthanasia and mortality issues, maintaining biosecurity when dealing with diseased animals, animal care and handling, and how to safely transport livestock in trailers.
According to BERP, on any given day in the United States approximately 400,000 livestock are being transported by semi-trucks and trailers on the interstate.
So what happens when those trailers flip on their side or even upside-down? How do first responders handle that situation? And what is the safest way to extract the cattle from the trailer?
Jerry Yates, farm manager at West Virginia University’s Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Design, addressed these questions and more.
He informed participants of the proper safety procedures involving the transportation of cattle in semi-trucks and trailers. Yates also warned against the use of lights, sirens, and other disturbing items when handling livestock.
“BERP is incredibly important,” Paula Brown, deputy director of the Greenbrier County Homeland Security and Emergency Management, said. “When we have so many cattle on the roadways, these situations are very probable.”
The first BERP program was offered in Hardy County in December 2013 and now the program has plans to expand nationally.
For more information about the BERP program, call David J. Workman with the West Virginia University Extension Service at 304-530-0273.