Photo credit: R. Anson Eaglin, USDA, APHIS
Photo credit: R. Anson Eaglin, USDA, APHIS

By Codi Vallery-Mills

Several states in the region took part in an Agriculture Response Management and Resources (ARMAR) simulation exercise last week that called for the states to respond to a foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) emergency.

In South Dakota, the Animal Industry Board, Department of Emergency Management, USDA APHIS, Animal Disease Research and Diagnostic Laboratory, county-level emergency management and local law enforcement were involved in the simulation.  

State Veterinarian Dustin Oedekoven and the Animal Industry Board staff and field veterinarians served as South Dakota’s lead agency for the simulation which Oedekoven thought went well.

“The goal was to evaluate how prepared we are in the event of a foreign disease outbreak and if there are weaknesses. My own sense of how things went was that we have strength in our relationships – state and national all the way down to the local ag industry. We have work to do in communicating during the actual crisis,” he notes.

The simulation was held over three days in Pierre, S.D. and everything operated in real time. In the scenario, a neighboring state was suspected and confirmed of having a foreign disease. Animals from that herd had been transported into South Dakota and decisions on depopulation and keeping the rest of the state’s livestock safe had to be addressed. Along the way, there were other hurdles that came up including a court-ordered injunction to stop the depopulation of the cattle.

“It was interesting because as we made decisions the people running the simulation made modifications to the game of play so we could see the outcome of our decisions. It was full of twists and turns and each agency gained take-home points to help them in the future,” Oedekoven says. 

It has been 10 years since South Dakota has taken part in a functional exercise like this one and Oedekoven says he is appreciative to those who planned and played the simulation to help the state find gaps and shortcomings it will need to change in its current procedures for foreign disease outbreaks like the one the simulation presented. 

“What’s the quote? ‘Failing to plan is planning to fail’. You can never do enough planning for events like this,” Oedekoven acknowledges.