July 22, 2012
Large Animal Evac and Technical Rescue Exercises
This document is a continuation from Part One in which the context of these activities is explained.
Over the years we have handled more horse emergencies than we can count, often without the aid of some of the more specialized technical rescue equipment shown in this information series. A few fundamental principles apply, a number of which have carried over from technical rescue in the fire service. If you follow these principles, you have a greater chance of success and less risk of a rescuer or horse owner getting injured in the process.
- Always assess the scene - get the big picture. What is going on that you see, and what is likely going on that you don't see?
- Job-1 is establishing scene safety. Mitigate hazards such as other animals at-large. Establish a "hot zone" and do not let anyone who is not actively engaged in necessary technical tasks enter that zone.
- Control noise and chaos as best you can as such stimulus only adds to stress in the animal.
- Organize yourself and those other persons present. Identify a clear objective. Devise a rational plan of action that everyone can understand.
- Multiple "bosses" usually produce a chaotic rescue effort. One person should be in charge of the rescue operation. This person should be the most technically proficient of those present. This person should not be the animal's owner or someone with an emotional interest in the animal as emotion has proved to cloud objectivity and rescue efficiency.
- Operational safety is critical. People tend to get focused on rescue activities and often don't recognize hazardous situations. One person must be assigned whose responsibility is to identify hazards and not allow anyone into any unreasonably risky situations. Everyone on the scene must adhere to safety commands or they should be removed for the well being of the remainder of the rescue team.
- Determine what human and technical resources you need. Order those resources and get them on the way. In most scenarios, a veterinarian capable of sedating the animal is warranted.
- Plan your work and work your plan unless the plan is not producing positive results.
- "Specialists" should not engage in general rescue tasks. For example, the veterinarian should only do necessary veterinary work. It is bad judgment to allow the only veterinarian on-scene to potentially get injured doing tasks that non-specialists are capable of doing.
- Work methodically. Follow relevant protocols. Regularly check your work and constantly evaluate your progress.
- Consider the effects of environmental factors on the animal and rescuers. Excessive heat and cold can significantly effect an operation that takes more than a few minutes to complete.
- If a situation becomes chaotic, it's important for us to ask ourselves if we are still thinking or if we are reacting. If a bunch of boulders are crashing down on us we need to react. However in most rescue operations we need to logically think about how to best deal with a fluid situation.
- Train and operate based on interagency and intergroup teamwork. Significant large animal emergencies can require a large "work force" provided by multiple sources. Technical rescue is no place for egos and kingdoms. Training that produces effective results in the field should involve the collaboration and participation of the groups and entities that would likely have to work together to resolve a significant emergency.
- At the end of each exercise and operation, conduct an evaluation. Technical rescue is a constantly evolving science. Determine what procedures or what equipment could be improved upon.
This web feature is presented for illustrative purposes only. It is not intended, nor should it be received as, a substitute for formal hands-on training.
Due to the excessive heat and the fact that this exercise was conducted using a mannequin, some leeway was given to the wearing of helmets. During actual rescues, during any exercises involving live animals, and during exercises with mannequins when overhead equipment is operating, the use of proper helmets is mandatory.
It was so hot that Nigel had to be cooled off as he would become too hot to touch!
The level of training and performance that we are able to achieve in northern Nevada is dependent upon a whole framework of individuals and entities.
Michael Connell: Lead instructor and the person instrumental in obtaining much of the high tech technical rescue gear that is now available for training and actual rescues.
The Nevada Division of Emergency Management: The entity recognizing the need for more focused training and more appropriate technical rescue equipment.
The Nevada Department of Agriculture: The entity that secured a grant for most of the new technical rescue equipment along with funds for enhanced training.
The Central Lyon County Fire Protection District: The entity that provided equipment and components needed to supply the water powered rescue tools.
The various county Search and Rescue teams who are invaluable during labor intensive large animal rescues.
The volunteers and supporters of Least Resistance Training Concepts without whom LRTC's Horse Emergency Response Team would not function.
And of course, "Nigel," our hard-luck equine mannequin who gets himself into all sorts of situations that technical rescuers have to resolve.
The training information presented in these information sheets and guides is offered for illustrative and volunteer refresher purposes only. It is not a substitute for actual hands-on training. Equipment was provided by the Nevada Division of Emergency Management and Least Resistance Training Concepts. Funding for much of the training and equipment shown was made available through a grant obtained by the Nevada Department of Agriculture. For more information about training opportunities, please contact LRTC via
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