First responders learn about animal accidents

HAMPSHIRE – Despite extensive training on how to handle human emergencies, many first responders have no idea how to handle an accident or fire involving horses.

After a recent accident involving 59 horses in a semi-trailer in Lake County, the need for such training has become imperative.

The horse industry in Illinois is one of the top in the nation, and examples of that are apparent in local horse facilities including the Fox Valley Saddle Association and the horse barn at Serosun Farms. The chances for an accident rise with more facilities and with the miles of highway and interchanges that run through Hampshire and surrounding areas that provide transport for horses.

Because of the increasing risk in the area, several emergency personnel attended an Equine Emergency course hosted by Trail Riders of DuPage (TROD) in Hampshire on May 3.

“Because of the urban sprawl, people aren’t being raised with animals anymore, so these classes are necessary,” said Sharon Nolan of TROD.

Participants included members of Hampshire, Burlington, Pingree Grove and Sycamore Fire Departments, Elgin and Palatine Police Departments and Kane County Animal Control.

The class taught responders the first rule of equine emergencies: before doing anything, call a large animal vet. Participants left the course with numbers for half a dozen such vets who are on-call.

After watching a video of a trailer accident involving two horses, participants got a chance to work hands-on with horses, learning how to handle a horse and keep it under control.

Once they were comfortable with a calm horse, they learned how to handle a horse that was scared by leading the animals through a sort of obstacle course where they were subjected to rattling plastic bags, opening umbrellas, flailing tarps and other distractions.

“The goal is to take them from novices to confident handlers in four hours,” Nolan said.

They also discovered what to do in case of a barn fire or a trailer accident including extricating horses and keeping them under control.

“It was excellent training,” said Captain Trevor Herrmann of the Hampshire Fire Department. “It’s good to have people in our organization trained as we have more horse traffic.”

“We hope they never have to use the training we give them,” Nolan said.