I Moved My Blog

I’ve moved my blog over to the new UVM WordPress blog site:


Click the link to see all the latest posts.  See you there!

Dr. Julie Smith

Be well and live biosecure.

Posted in Just My Thoughts | Leave a comment

Unity of Effort Plus Local Knowledge

Two recent commentaries on the BP oil spill have indicated a major shift is needed in how the US responds to major disasters.  On September 9, I caught the end of an NPR interview with Thad Allen, retired U.S. Coast Guard Admiral.  He said, “You have to generate unity of effort.” He went on to say, “We will never have another major event in this country that does not involve a major public participation, whether it’s Web-based, social media, through non-governmental organizations or faith-based organizations. We have to figure out a way to better integrate all those resources, passion and commitment that exist out there. Because if we don’t, they’re going to be disaffected and you’re going to break down that unity of effort you’re trying to achieve.”

He also alluded to challenges to federalism saying, “Having worked this oil spill and Hurricane Katrina, there are fascinating issues of federalism here and the respective roles of state and local governments and the federal government.”

I find it curious that anyone can expect a bureaucracy to respond nimbly and effectively to a disaster.

It took the BP oil spill to convince Shirley Laska, University of New Orleans sociologist, otherwise.  In an article posted in the Public Entity Risk Institute newsletter (October 2010 PERIscope), she writes,

“. . .my conviction about the key role of the federal level of government in response to a major disaster/catastrophe has been shaken. I thought as others that the challenges might have been idiosyncratic to the particular administration that had been in power and the reorganization/diminishment of the capacity of FEMA as a result of the pendulum swing to responding to terrorist attacks as the prime risk focus of our government the decade Katrina occurred. However, that analysis has not held up with the BP oil event. A different political party controls the administration; FEMA is not the lead federal agency in this one and there have been five years to repair the federal capacity for non-terrorist disaster response.

If you had taken the Katrina “script” and simply replaced the name with the “BP blowout,” the observations and thus the negative assessment would almost have been identical. “Who’s in charge? Where is the organization of the response? Why is a response taking so long?” Delay in response harms people unimaginably and also kills people – through life-threatening rescue delays, through recovery trauma, etc. A delayed activity is a failed activity. It is not just a term whose harm can be neutralized once the activity finally occurs. “How can it be that the basic elements of an “average” response were so difficult to achieve?””

Are there solutions? David Brooks, New York Times columnist, headed an op-ed on June 17, “Trim the ‘Experts,’ Trust the Locals.” One of Dr. Laska’s policy prescriptions for better response is to incorporate engaged citizens in the response—community stakeholders and local governments.

It just so happens that that is the starting point of the UVM (AFRI) biosecurity project currently underway,

Posted in Just My Thoughts, News Worthy Mentionables | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

It’s National Farm Safety and Health Week

Feeding time at UVM's Paul Miller Research Complex.

“Every day, the lives of Americans are touched by the hard work and dedication of our Nation’s farmers, ranchers, and farmworkers.  The food they produce through their tireless efforts fuels our Nation, nourishes our bodies, and sustains millions at home and around the globe.”  With these words Barack Obama began his proclamation of the week of September 19 – 25 as National Farm Safety and Health Week.

Farmers work with potentially hazardous equipment, animals, and conditions on a daily basis.  Sometimes they need a reminder to take routine precautions.  SAFETY IS NO ACCIDENT.

The Vermont Agency of Ag recently produced a sobering 2-part video about farm safety, A Farm Accident Could Happen to Any One of Us.  The videos are posted on YouTube and can also be found at the Agency website.  On the 28th, Vermont Rebates for Roll Bars will be launched to assist farmers in retrofitting older tractors with this life-saving safety equipment.

Need more information on agricultural safety?

The National Education Center for Agricultural Safety has a nice list of resources available.  Last year I checked out the National Ag Safety Database interactive training course on sharing the road with agricultural vehicles.  This is a good time of year to take a look at that one.

Posted in Just My Thoughts, News Worthy Mentionables, One Health | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Texting O K

What should you do if you want to know your family is safe after a weather, terror, or other emergency event?  Text first.  Talk second.  The Safe America Foundation has launched a “text first/talk second” campaign coinciding with the anniversary 9/11.  Think about it.  Texting “I M O K” takes less than 2 seconds and uses a fraction of the bandwidth of a call.  In fact, 800 people can text “I M O K” in the bandwidth required for one phone call.  If you need a primer on texting, see a teenager.

Posted in Just My Thoughts, News Worthy Mentionables | Tagged , | Leave a comment

September is Disaster Preparedness Month

Are you Ready?

Do you have a family emergency plan?

Would you be OK for 72 hours?

Face it: No one wants to deal with an emergency or disaster.  But when seconds count and lives are on the line, knowing the right thing to do can make a difference in your life or the life of a loved one, friend, or community member.

Face it: You need to plan ahead.  Get the training and resources you need to respond quickly and effectively whether it is for yourself, your family, your business, or your community.

Face it: You need help planning.  Good plans aren’t created in a vacuum.

Find it: Extension and other resources are a click away.  Here are a few you might want to check out:

Family Disaster Plan: you can fill this one out on line and print it out!

Get a Kit: American Red Cross list of supplies to have ready-to-go with you in case of evacuation or other emergency where you would be on your own for up to 3 days.

Posted in Just My Thoughts, News Worthy Mentionables | Leave a comment

Traceability Framework

For 2 days at the end of August, almost 200 state veterinarians and livestock industry representatives met in Denver to share suggestions for and concerns about the USDA’s traceability framework, announced in February of this year.

The National Institute for Animal Agriculture and US Animal Health Association jointly sponsored this forum on animal traceability to coincide with the release of draft guidance developed by the Traceability Regulatory Working Group.  This was a unique opportunity to see a draft of a regulation prior to its release as a proposed rule with the standard 60-to-90 day window for public comment.  That is expected to happen in April 2011.

I went along to see how these groups would facilitate development of a consensus and find out more about traceability needs and concerns around the country.  The stage was set by one of the state vets who clearly stated that this forum was for productive discussion.  Essentially, naysayers were not welcome.  I found it interesting that all of the people I talked with had some naysayers in their state and they all were saying the same things and had not changed their tune even with the USDA’s abandonment of pursuing a national animal identification system (NAIS).  From my understanding of the situation, small holder livestock or poultry producers raising animals for their own or local (in-state) consumption could choose not to participate (in NAIS or the new framework) and this would have minimal impact on the effectiveness of the program.  It would, however, potentially put those producers at a disadvantage for receiving assistance from state animal health authorities in an emergency.

Personally, I am glad that the USDA has taken a new approach to the challenge of traceability.  The best explanation I heard of the difference between NAIS and the new framework was that the bookends have changed.  Instead of having a goal of tracking animals from birth to death (NAIS), the new framework’s goal is to track animals that cross state lines.  Some would say we are already doing that.  Animals moving from one state to another are required to have valid Certificates of Veterinary Inspection.  But if these are paper-based and tied to metal ear tags, like the orange Bang’s tags or silver “brite” tags, think about how long it would take to trace an animal if your state imports 10,000 animals a year.  Right now tuberculosis, TB, is on the move in cattle and the current system is proving inadequate to economically and efficiently conduct traces.  If the disease was a fast-moving disease like foot-and-mouth disease, the current system would be practically useless.

Posted in Just My Thoughts, News Worthy Mentionables, One Health | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment