CULPH set up a State Animal Response Team (formerly known as the Animal Emergency Planning and Response Committee) which meets annually to develop and review the ESF-17 Annex. This Annex is submitted each spring for approval by the EMD and the Governor. Representatives from each of the support agencies and other stakeholders in animal and agricultural issues make up the SART.

CULPH provides a coordinator to oversee the development and implementation of the ESF and also provides members of the State Emergency Response Team (SERT) to serve at the State Emergency Operations Center (EOC) in West Columbia during emergency response activation. Several Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service (CUCES) Agents also serve on the SERT. SERT members are trained to work within the SCEMD protocols during activation to coordinate assessment and tasking of state resources and support agency activities, and to call in national or federal assistance if needed.

ANNEX 17, which outlines the areas of responsibility of each support agency and the guidelines for communication in carrying out responsibilities, may be viewed on the SCEMD website.

In addition to the Annex, CULPH is involved in carrying the plan to the working level of county activities. CULPH has assisted counties in the development of County Animal/Agriculture Response Teams (CARTs). These ‘teams’ or committees are composed of agencies and stakeholders with interests similar to those at the state level, and may include personnel who would be first responders in a disaster event involving animals and/or agricultural assets. The CART Coordinator may serve in the individual county EOC during emergency response activation.

The SC Animal Care and Control Association (SCACCA) has assisted in the production of the “Pet-Friendly Hotel and Motel List” to assist people evacuating with their pets. Planning for “co-located” pet shelters – those nearby to human shelters in a disaster – is underway. The South Carolina Association of Veterinarians has named at least one Veterinary Liaison Officer in each county to participate in the medical needs of animals at the county level during an emergency.

Another type of animal emergency resource is the Large Animal Rescue Team (LART) units in the state. These teams are trained and equipped to provide assistance in rescuing livestock or horses in emergency situations. They are designed to work within the county emergency rescue guidelines and with existing rescue personnel such as firemen, rescue teams, and forestry teams. Classroom, web-based and hands-on training sessions are required for persons wishing to join a LART.

The Animal/Agriculture Emergency Response Program has always addressed various types of emergencies including natural disasters (flood, fire, tornado, etc.), man-made accident (trailer wreck, chemical spill, gas line explosion), nuclear accident, and disease outbreaks. Planning addresses mitigation/preparedness, response and recovery for a number of scenarios.

Some of the major areas of responsibility involve:

  • Evacuation and sheltering from hurricanes and other regional threats
  • Emergency disease identification and control (animal or zoonotic disease)
  • Public Health protection of the food ingestion pathway (food production animals)
  • Carcass and waste disposal in response and recovery phase
  • Coordination with other state and federal agencies during emergencies

A new focus of preparedness in recent years is the prevention of agroterrorism, the intentional introduction of disease to our production animals or crops. With the assistance of Homeland Security grants, CULPH and support agencies developed and delivered awareness courses (Foreign Animal and Plant Diseases, Agroterrorism, GPS/GIS) to CARTs to aid in early detection at the local level. Also, some specialized supplies were provided to county and regional teams to aid in response to an agroterrorism event. A State Veterinary Animal Response Team, which includes our Federal partners at the USDA/APHIS/Veterinary Services, has been organized to respond in the advent of a foreign (exotic) animal disease.

Emergency preparedness plans are intended to protect the public health and animal health in the most expedient and best manner given available current knowledge and resources. All agencies involved in ESF-17 recognize the importance of animals and agriculture to South Carolinians and pledge to work in their behalf to prevent and reduce losses in emergency situations. Responders working within the ESF-17 organizational structure must follow the National Incident Management System training guidelines.