Carcass Disposal Issues in Recent Disasters, Accepted Methods, and Suggested Plan to Mitigate Future Events
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The disposal of dead animals as a result of recent natural disaster events such as Hurricane Floyd in North Carolina (1999), and disease related events such as the Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) outbreak in the United Kingdom (UK, 2001), created tremendous logistical problems. The difficulties encountered by officials involved in carcass disposal management during recent disaster events have highlighted the need for the establishment of efficient and effective advance planning mechanisms, to mitigate the consequences of future carcass disposal situations. Before problems can be solved however, they must be identified and understood. This paper utilizes numerous methods of study to identify and examine the problems that routinely occur related to carcass disposal management during disasters, including:
- Literature review of the United States' emergency management infrastructure, carcass disposal methods, and existing state disaster plans and documents.
- Document review and archive analysis from four recent disaster events that generated large numbers of dead animals, to identify the major problems encountered.
- Participant observation and direct participation by the author in the Texas Flood of 1998, and the Foot and Mouth disease outbreak in the United Kingdom in 2001.
- Structured interviews (uniform questionnaire) with state employees currently involved in emergency management activities and planning from North Carolina, Florida, California, and Texas. Officials from four different agency types identified as crucial to effective carcass disposal management (animal health, emergency management, environmental, and contract services) were interviewed, to assess their current planning status, understanding of disposal issues, and ability to manage future events.
- Open ended interviews completed with various participants from the disaster events covered, and with state officials active in carcass disposal management or planning.
Working hypotheses are used as an exploratory type of inquiry to identify the pertinent issues surrounding carcass disposal within the public sector emergency management infrastructure. An overview of currently accepted carcass disposal methods is also provided, to give a better understanding of the options available for individuals with a limited background in animal health or environmental science.
As a result of identifying common carcass disposal problems, delineating appropriate disposal methods, and assimilating interview results from public managers involved in recent carcass disposal activities, an ideal plan is suggested to organize and enhance existing state and local preparedness efforts. Major components of the plan include, 1) inclusion of animal health issues in future emergency management plans and training, 2) use of interagency working groups to enhance communication, identify pre-existing jurisdictional conflicts, and delineate funding mechanisms, 3) inclusion of local officials and industry groups in all planning processes, and 4) determination of lead agencies for carcass disposal response activities and resource database management.