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Florida Veterinarians Battle Hurricane Season with Help from AAEP Foundation
With Florida veterinarians and horse owners dealing with the arrival of Hurricane Ivan and still struggling with power outages caused by hurricanes Charley and Frances, the American Association of Equine Practitioners’ (AAEP) Foundation has donated $3,000 to help supply area veterinarians with satellite telephones. Satellite phone capability will ensure communication between area veterinarians, members of veterinary management assistant teams deployed to the area, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and local law enforcement.
“While any communication during an actual hurricane is often impossible, the real difficulty is during the aftermath when there is no power to cell phone towers,” explained Dana Zimmel, DVM, Florida emergency communication contact for the AAEP’s Emergency and Disaster Preparedness Committee and an assistant professor at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine. “Satellite phones are often our only communication link to the hardest hit areas.”
Early assessments following hurricanes Charley and Frances indicated that while most of the state’s horses were relatively unharmed, the ongoing flooding and a lack of drinking water due to the loss of power to wells was a concern. Many farms continue to be without power.
With Hurricane Ivan and the potential for Tropical Storm Jeanne to reach Florida, the satellite phones will improve communication in these areas of impact as well. “The Florida state veterinarian has asked us to gather a team of veterinarians, vet techs and students to man a command post in Defuniak, FL, after Ivan passes. We will be using the phones there or passing them on to practitioners in those areas to use as needed,” said Zimmel.
Other preparatory steps taken by the Florida veterinary community include the identification of hospitals that have generators and are capable of triage; identification of locations where unidentified horses can be placed until the owner is located; identification of suppliers that are prepared to donate or provide extra supplies and medications as needed; contacting local van companies to be on alert to move homeless horses to a shelter; and gaining the appropriate "clearance" for vets to travel when curfews are in place and federal agents are in command.
“I think the most important aspect for veterinarians in a disaster is to understand how to get assistance when they need it” said Zimmel. “They need to know how to utilize the resources that are already in place. I also realized that local disaster officials might not understand the needs of the equine industry. Equine practitioners need to be proactive in seeking help for their clients.”
The AAEP also provides a resource guide for veterinarians and horse owners regarding natural disasters. The AAEP’s "Guidelines for Emergency and Disaster Preparation" are available online or can be requested from the AAEP office at (859) 233-0147. An article written by Zimmel for horse owners on disaster preparation is also available on the AAEP’s horse health Web site myHorseMatters.com and can be accessed here.
For more information regarding general emergency management in the state of Florida, visit www.floridadisaster.org. To learn about the AAEP Foundation’s efforts, contact Ky Mortensen at (859) 233-0147.
The American Association of Equine Practitioners, headquartered in Lexington, KY, was founded in 1954 as a non-profit organization dedicated to the health and welfare of the horse. Currently, AAEP reaches more than five million horse owners through its over 8,000 members worldwide and is actively involved in ethics issues, practice management, research and continuing education in the equine veterinary profession and horse industry.