For those involved in animal rescue and welfare management during disasters, the environment and animals combined pose an increased physical wellbeing risk paradigm. Nevertheless, peer-reviewed literature evaluating this risk is scant. Some of these risks were evaluated though the delivery of an international survey of volunteer, professional, trained and untrained responders. Of 260/315 (83%) respondents to the question asking if they had been physically compromised in association with a response, 19% (49/260) indicated an impact on their physical well-being. Most (80%) indicated that there were mildly affected by injury or illness, whereas the remainder were moderately or markedly affected. Of the injuries reported, most (52%) were to the hand, followed by the arm (36%), leg (24%), back (24%) and head or face (15%). Of these, 45% reported multiple body regions were affected. Injury types ranged from bruises or lacerations to concussion. The most reported illnesses were associated with infectious disease. The most common factors contributing to injury or illness were the animals being rescued, fatigue and the actions or inactions of others. An existing illness or health concern, failure to wear personal protective equipment, training deficiencies, stress, equipment failure and miscommunication were other factors. These findings provide estimates for the risk of compromised physical well-being and suggest a need for specific training and personnel management for these deployments
Steve De Grey is a Senior Practising Veterinarian at Massey University, and is currently completing a Master of Science associated with the well-being of responders deployed to technical animal rescues and disasters.