Planning helps officials to combat potential agroterrorism

Chelle Delaney

They picked a worse case scenario.

A FAD, or foreign animal disease, that could possibly be introduced into the U.S. and more specifically into Quay County.

They were the local, state and neighboring livestock, law enforcement and emergency responders who might be called into action if a FAD such as foot and mouth, anthrax or some other disease might be discovered in Quay County.

Organized by Keith Henderson, Quay County Emergency Manager, the tabletop agroterrorism exercise was also attended by officials from Curry, Harding, Roosevelt and Union counties.

Ever since 9-11, city, county, state and federal officials have been organizing such sessions to have a plan of action in case of agroterrorism, or if there were cases such as hoof and mouth disease that occurred in the United Kingdom last year, said Billy Dictson, director of the Office of Biosecurity at New Mexico State University’s College of Agriculture and Home Economics.

Dictson and Jeff Witte, director of Agriculture Biosecurity, New Mexico Department of Agriculture, Southwest Border Food Safety Defense Center, have conducted sessions like this in New Mexico and in other states so that emergency teams would have some idea what they might encounter.

They talked about the financial and economic impact of such a disease. But important is the aspect of containing, tracing back and forward, and eradicating, said Jeffrey S. Phillips, training and exercise coordinator for Tetra Tech, a security services group based in Santa Fe.

Some diseases could have many implications such as the eradication of animals, where and how the carcasses could be burned and buried, how workers and equipment would be decontaminated and with what types of solutions.

Quay County has the beginnings of a plan in the event of agroterrorism, but the tabletop exercise will help to flush it out and add other measures and scenarios in the event of an emergency, Henderson said.

Several of those attending said they had been to several drills for emergency events such as an explosion or hazardous material spills, but not to a workshop on how to combat agroterrorism.

The workshop was paid for by the Department of Homeland Security.