The Value of Training

During emergency situations, animals are often a challenge for emergency responders who must face both a frightened pet and concerned owner. A recent incident in California showed the value of animal handling training for first responders when a car fire 10 miles from the UC Davis campus spread to a nearby barn which housed multiple animals. “The head of the fire was rapidly approaching the barn, and my assessment — with the resources immediately available—was that it could not be saved,” acting captain Ben Rizzo told The Daily Democrat. “Instead of futiley attempting to save the barn, my decision was to direct the crew to evacuate the animals as quickly as possible and protect the adjoining house.”

The team of firefighters had been trained by the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine and Department of Animal Science in animal handling and rescue, allowing them to better understand animal behavior and evacuate effectively, according to The Democrat.

“Firefighters and other responders have to take very different actions in response to the presence of animals at any incident they attend compared to our typical calls for service,” Jim Green, director of the British Animal Rescue and Trauma Care Association and captain with the UK-based Hampshire Fire Rescue Service, told The Democrat. “Risks range from a domestic pet protecting its environment at home, to defending its owner in a car crash, to a wildland fire where trapped and scared large animals require evacuation.” Green has spent the past year working with UC Davis’ emergency response programs developing a “risk-based approach to situations firefighters encounter where animals need to be rescued or safely moved from harm’s way” in conjunction with the local fire department. For example, first responders can find detailed tips on dealing with evacuating and assessing horses in a flood situation, as well as planning for emergencies involving equines, on the program’s website.