Columbia County is widening the scope of its emergency preparedness by offering awareness training to emergency responders and anyone associated with agriculture and food industries.
"We need our first responders to recognize what they need to know as far as bioterrorism and what could happen to the food supply," said Columbia County Emergency Services Division Director Pam Tucker.
The training, scheduled for 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday at Savannah Rapids Pavilion, is being presented by the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service.
Tucker said 75 percent of Columbia County is zoned agricultural, so an attack could devastate the area.
Columbia County Extension Agent Charles Phillips said most of the agriculture in Columbia County is livestock, with nearly 3,000 head of cattle in the county, but it also includes the nursery and greenhouse industry and forestry, the source of the county's largest income.
Phillips said these industries are susceptible to bio-terrorism attacks involving foot-and-mouth disease, mad cow disease and sudden oak death.
The free training session is targeted for anyone associated with agriculture growers and agricultural organization representatives, veterinarians and emergency responders, firefighters and law enforcement.
"What we are trying to do is make people aware of what potential hazards are out there and what some of the signs are," Phillips said.
The training includes information stressing the economic importance of agriculture and food, examples of potential problems and what to do if a problem arises.
The program is sponsored by the U.S. Office of Domestic Preparedness, Georgia Emergency Management Agency, Georgia Department of Agriculture, the University of Georgia and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Tucker said the training is important because it informs responders and others about the lines of communication, and makes "everybody educated and informed about how to link information."
Preregistration, which is recommended, can be done at https://secure.caes.uga.edu/agrosecuritytraining/. Registration the day of the training begins at 8:30 a.m. with the course starting at 9 a.m. Lunch is provided.
Six credit-hours are given for participants from Georgia Peace Officers Standards and Training Council, Georgia Fire Academy, Georgia Firefighters Standards and Training, Georgia Department of Human Resources Office of Emergency Medical Services, Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police and the Georgia State Board of Veterinary Medicine.
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