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State to Test Response to Agriculture Disaster in Panhandle

6/6/2007

Oklahoma City – The Oklahoma Office of Homeland Security (OKOHS) is coordinating an exercise in the Panhandle area to practice the local, state and federal response to a Foreign Animal Disease (FAD) outbreak.

Exercising the response to an agricultural disaster is critically important for Oklahoma, as the state ranks in the top 10 nationally in a number of commodities, including: second in winter wheat, fifth in cattle, fifth in pecans, seventh in peanuts, eighth in hogs and tenth in chicken (broiler) production. This FAD outbreak exercise is a proactive endeavor for the state, particularly for the Panhandle where a majority of the cattle and hog industry is located.

“The Oklahoma agriculture industry is one of the cornerstones of our state’s economy and a crucial component of the nation’s food supply,” said Kerry Pettingill, Oklahoma Homeland Security Director. “We must be proactive in protecting the agriculture sector of business. The responders in the Panhandle are highly qualified and prepared for the enormous responsibility that would come with an agricultural disaster whether natural or manmade. This exercise provides an avenue to test the plans in place and identify enhancements that may be needed.”

OKOHS is collaborating with the state Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry; Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management; Oklahoma Highway Patrol; Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation; local private industry and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to facilitate this exercise.

“Our agency was the first state agricultural department in the nation to implement the Incident Command System and develop emergency response teams,” said Oklahoma Secretary of Agriculture Terry Peach. “Over the years we have successfully dealt with wildfires, ice storms and animal disease outbreaks, and we understand the importance of joint training exercises.”

The exercise will bring together those agencies responsible for containing a FAD outbreak in the Panhandle and provide a forum for those responders to discuss ways to enhance plans, procedures and protocols for responding to a FAD outbreak. Texas County is pleased to be hosting an exercise of this magnitude, particularly because of the county’s role in this type of a response.

“We have a tremendous responsibility in the four-state area to provide food to our nation, which includes production of hogs, cattle, corn and wheat,” said Harold Tyson, Texas County Emergency Management Director. “We also have the responsibility to protect what we produce here and exercises like this are imperative so that we can be better prepared for any disaster.”

The exercise will take place June 7 in Guymon. It is conducted in a no-fault learning environment and is intended to capitalize, reinforce and provide feedback on the responder’s training and preparedness.

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