Officials in Kansas and Oklahoma are partnering to conduct the first interstate emergency response exercise that will test coordination and the logistics of implementing a stop livestock movement order issued by state animal health officials.
The real-time exercise will be Thursday in Topeka, Kan. and Oklahoma City Okla., and on the Kansas-Oklahoma border. The scenario is based on simulated outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in the eastern United States.
"Many states have conducted exercises to test their response plans to a highly contagious foreign animal disease within their own borders, so this exercise provides the new dimension of coordinating activities to stop animal movement across a shared border," said George Teagarden, commissioner of the Kansas Animal Health Department.
The exercise, titled SAMS-KO, or Stop Animal Movement Statewide KS-OK, is funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Kansas and Oklahoma are members of the Multi-State Partnership for Security in Agriculture, a consortium of 13 states that work together to protect the food and agriculture sector by sharing information and building interstate response capabilities. SES, Inc., of Merriam, was hired to design and conduct the exercise to test the plans and coordination needed to successfully stop and screen livestock and livestock-related traffic involved in interstate commerce.
"We conduct a number of exercises annually with our state partners in Kansas," said Maj. Gen. Tod Bunting, Kansas adjutant general and director of the Kansas Division of Emergency Management. "However, working with our partners across state lines is critical because disasters seldom stop at the state line. We consider foreign animal disease to be one of the major threats to our state's economy and the more we exercise for it, the more everyone will know what to expect should it happen in the U.S."
Animal health, agriculture, law enforcement, transportation and emergency management officials from both states will participate in the exercise by working as players, evaluators and actors. The exercise will be played out as realistically as possible, in real time, and will involve emergency operations centers, key decision makers and local officials in both states. Traffic will be screened at two border locations -- one at the intersection of Highways 160 and 183 near Sitka, Kan., and the other three miles north of Turpin, Okla., on Highway 83.
"Kansas is a leader in animal agriculture, so it's no surprise our state would be among the first to test this critical element of our foreign animal disease response plan," said Josh Svaty, acting secretary of the Kansas Department of Agriculture. "I'm proud that folks in my department have been able to help develop and carry out this exercise and that we will play a strong supporting role in a real event. It will take all of us working together, including our partners in neighboring states, to control the spread of diseases that could devastate our livestock industry."
"A stop livestock movement order is designed to protect healthy animals from the introduction of harmful diseases. Its focus is to stop potentially diseased animals or contaminated animal-handling equipment from other states from entering our state and coming into contact with healthy animals," Teagarden said. "This exercise will allow us to test how well our plan works and to identify future planning priorities."
The exercise scenario involves an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease, a highly contagious disease of cattle, sheep, swine, goats, deer and other cloven-hoofed animals that causes blisters on the mouth, teats and soft tissue of the feet. Infected animals have difficulty eating and walking. While it is painful for infected animals, it does not pose a significant threat to human health.
Foot-and-mouth disease was last identified in the United States in 1929. It is a primary concern for animal health officials because it could have potentially devastating economic consequences due to disrupted trade and lost investor confidence.