© Mitch MacDonald
Carin Wittnich, back, watches third-year AVC students, from left, Lauren Russell and Christie Yamazaki perform a mock rescue exercise as part of a workshop held at the school over the weekend. Guardian photo
Students at the Atlantic Veterinary College got a taste of what it’s like rescuing animals trapped in disaster situations during a one-day workshop on Saturday.
The hands-on workshop was hosted by the Student Chapter of the American Veterinary Medical Association (SCAVMA) at the school and provided a basic understanding of an animal rescue response team’s role during a disaster.
Members of the Disaster Response Division of the Oceanographic and Environmental Research Society (OERS) created a simulated emergency scene akin to what would be experienced in any major storm.
Lights were darkened and boxes, furniture and other objects were sprawled around the room to create the feel of a partially fallen building while participants were divided into teams and conducted searches for stuffed animal toys.
Carin Wittnich, leader of OERS’ scientific and rescue initiatives, added there was no qualification attached with completing the course and that it was simply to give AVC students an idea of if it was a path they’d like to pursue.
“This is to give them an idea of what is involved, some of the protocols you need to adhere to ... and the training that’s required because you can’t just go, good intentions are not enough,” said Wittnich. “This is almost like a teaser or a little snippet. True LUSAR (light urban search and rescue) training is much more involved.”
Christie Yamazaki, vice-president of the Student Chapter of the American Veterinary Medical Association, said there is a big trend among veterinarians in learning how to respond to disaster situations.
This is partially because many of the U.S. vet schools are near disaster areas in southern states, said Yamazaki.
However, with no AVC programs dealing with disaster response, Yamazaki said the student group felt it was important to bring the Ontario-based group in to conduct the workshop.
“So at least we’re exposed to it and if people are interested they can seek out other opportunities to become further trained,” she said. “It’s provided a legitimate way to get information about how to get more involved.”
“As veterinary medical students, we want to be able to go and respond in these types of problems and disasters,” added AVC student Lauren Russell. “Students want to know what is available for them to try. We want to give them a taste of the different organizations that are out there and how they might be able to respond.”
The workshop also saw Michael Belanger, director of operations at OERS, present with Wittnich.
Other presenters included Eric Koch of the AVC’s Equine Ambulatory Services and Peter Foley, a small animal internal medicine specialist at AVC.