First Responders Learn To Handle Animals With "BART" - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

First Responders Learn To Handle Animals With "BART"


Faced with a disaster or an emergency how high would your pet be on the list of priorities? In a training program that's new to Iowa first responders are learning how to handle animals for their safety and the safety of their human counterparts.

In the countless hours first responders like Blue Grass firefighters spend training to save people there's not a lot that prepares them for how to deal with dogs or cats, though it can often be a part of the job. The program is called BART, or Basic Animal Rescue Training.

"Use the training they already have, their EMS training, and apply it to animals. Because they're not that different but there are some differences," said Dr. Jennifer Ewoldt, a veterinarian with the Scott County Animal Hospital and the Iowa State Program Director for BART.

The program, run entirely by volunteer veterinarians and vet techs, started in Minnesota in 2004. Since then, training has been done in only a couple adjoining states. The training at the Blue Grass Fire Department is one of the first classes in the state of Iowa.

In hands-on sessions firefighters are learning basic first aid, like checking an animal's body temperature, and practicing CPR by doing mouth-to-nose on a manikin dog. They also learn how to properly approach and handle animals in distress.

"That's really the most important thing because it allows them to work on the humans or work on the structure fire or anything else they have to deal with at the situation," added Ewoldt.

Blue Grass Assistant Fire Chief Jack Stoffers knows how vital that can be. "In a medical situation you run into somewhere you've got an aggressive dog, a dog is going to protect it's owner, and that owner is your patient. You have to be able to know how to get that patient without getting bit yourself," said Stoffers

These are skills not normally covered in fire training. But, because sometimes pet owners will run into a burning building or refuse to evacuate because of their pets, training like this will hopefully help responders act quickly and get everybody out safely.

"We're hoping this takes off and other departments will do the same thing and we can be a whole force in the community," added Stoffers.

BART courses are certified by FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security. Training is funded completely through grants and donations. If your agency is interested in the course you can contact Dr. Jennifer Ewoldt at (563) 285-8624 or CLICK HERE to visit the website.


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