In August 2015, Central West Local Land Services ran a mock Emergency Animal Disease Exercise in the Dubbo area. The aims of the exercise were:
Red Racer disease was diagnosed in Queensland in late July. The outbreak is now in its third week, so far no cases have been reported in NSW.
However a tracing report received today has implicated a property near Dubbo. Many of the CWLLS Animal Biosecurity & Welfare staff have been seconded to Queensland to assist with the response there so staff from all aspects of the business have been called into help investigate this trace. This trace is considered very high risk and requires an urgent and thorough investigation.
Teams were made up of 3-4 people. They were not given much information prior to the event, as we wanted the event to be a true Emergency Situation. The teams met at Dubbo Victoria Street office on 25th August 2015.
Sam Allan from NSW DPI then called each team leader (who in most teams was a member of the Biosecurity side of CWLLS) to let them know the brief details and location for the trace.
The mission for the teams was to attend the trace property at Dubbo to investigate the suspected presence of Red Racer Disease and report findings as soon as possible.
There were seven teams and 34 people in total involved in the exercise. There were two locations involved in the exercise and the teams ran concurrently at each location to ensure all teams got to visit a farm over the morning. A staff member posed as the farmer at each location and there was an experienced vet or Biosecurity Officer at each location to assess how well the exercise ran for each team.
Each team leader was responsible for contacting the farmer to confirm visit time and get directions to property prior to leaving the office. They then had to book and find a vehicle, ensure their PPE kit was complete and proceed to the property with team and exercise full biosecurity procedures on and off farm.Samples from “infected animals” were provided on site – no live animals were used in the exercise.
Teams had to assess the risk of Red Racer disease being present, collect samples and tracing information (forward and back) and report to Sam Allan ASAP by phone and in hard copy on BioSIRT forms. All hard copy forms were uploaded into Google Drive in the Dubbo office for Sam to view from her remote location in Tamworth.
Upon returning from the farm, each team had to trace forward and back from the property using information, National Vendor Declarations and Animal Health Statements gathered while on farm and the NLIS database.
Overall, the exercise was well received by all staff involved. Biosecurity staff valued the opportunity to practice responding to an Emergency Animal Disease and staff from across the business enjoyed seeing what we do in our positions.
Some staff felt they did not learn enough about the disease while being involved in the exercise. This is difficult to correct though, as it was a fictitious disease! Next time we may base the exercise on a real disease.
There were some issues with parking and vehicle access while the exercise was underway, to be expected with the change to a vehicle pool.
Some teams tried to use IPhones to collect data and pictures while on farm, which was not successful as they were not very functional inside plastic bags and it rained which fogged them up considerably. Uploading the paper documents into Google Drive worked well though for accessibility from remote locations and staff in other offices. The NLIS database went down for maintenance half way through the exercise and some teams did not get to do the tracing part of the exercise.
Involving our Agriculture Industry group was a good initiative and we will do this again in the future.
Overall, the exercise ran smoothly, finished on time and each staff member learnt from it. We will aim to run these exercises once a year.