Alabama hosts foreign animal disease exercise

The Agriculture Homeland Security & Emergency Preparedness Section of the Alabama Department of Agriculture & Industries recently hosted a Foreign Animal Disease Full Scale Exercise at the state fairgrounds.

More than 200 first responders, veterinarians, public information officers and emergency management staff from seven states were on hand for the foreign animal disease simulation.

 “This exercise provided us a great opportunity to bring many agencies together to simulate what should happen when there is an emergency situation in Alabama,” said Commissioner of Agriculture & Industries Ron Sparks. “It is extremely important we learn to communicate with each other and work together both locally and with our national counterparts. It is an integral part of being able to serve the people of Alabama well, especially during a crisis.”

The exercise provided participants with an opportunity to evaluate current response concepts, plans, and capabilities for a response to a foreign animal disease outbreak in Alabama. The exercise focused on local emergency responder command and control coordination, critical decisions, notifications, and integration of state and federal assets necessary to save personal property, private industry, the economy, and to protect public health and security.

"The Alabama Department of Homeland Security fully supports exercises like the one held today," Alabama Homeland Security Director Jim Walker said. "It's important for us to practice these response actions to learn how we can perform better."

A foreign animal disease is defined as an important transmissible disease of livestock or poultry believed to be absent from the United States. Foreign animal diseases are considered a threat to the United States when they significantly affect human health, or when there is appreciable cost associated with control or eradication of disease in livestock. In addition to disease control costs, the most immediate consequence of an FAD in the United States is the loss of export markets.

This particular exercise focused on the state’s response to foot and mouth disease (FMD), a severe, highly contagious disease of cattle, pigs, sheep, goats and deer.

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