Heavy snow collapses a barn roof killing a herd of dairy cows. Avian influenza hits the Fraser Valley poultry industry. A transport truck carrying a load of live farm animals slides off an icy road and overturns. Fire. Flood.

No, it’s not a horror movie script. These are actual events involving livestock and poultry that took place right here in BC. They aren’t things most people want to think about, but they happen.

While a reportable disease outbreak invokes measures at provincial and federal levels, most of these types of disasters are handled locally. Smaller events can usually be managed fairly easily.

But what if the volume of livestock remains is just too great or the event stretches over an extended period? That’s where the Livestock Waste Tissue Initiative comes to the rescue.

Local governments can access funding to create a plan for emergency disposal of livestock carcasses, test that the plan really works in a simulated “tabletop” exercise, identify any gaps that need to be fixed, conduct a GIS study to find suitable, dedicated disposal sites and pursue the necessary permits.

Thirty-nine communities have already created an emergency plan or have one in the works (covering 92% of all BC livestock by weight). Eighteen have moved on to conduct the tabletop exercise (50%) and 12 are now in the process of conducting GIS studies.

“Carcass disposal is our Achilles’ heal,” says Rick Van Kleeck, who manages the initiative on behalf of the Foundation. “I’d like to see more communities prepared to handle an event and take us up on our offer of funding to find suitable sites and get them permitted. They may never need to use them, but if they do, they won’t have to scramble.”

Yes, it’s true. Rick is a former Boy Scout who still takes their “always prepared” motto to heart.

He estimates there is enough money available to get 14 communities to the permitting stage. With the right tools in place, a disaster can be dealt with right away and everything can get back to normal as quickly as possible.

The District of Kent is one community that is currently working through the process, having just wrapped up their tabletop exercise. But they also had a real chance to put their plan into action. After a fire raged through a dairy barn in September 2010, killing more than 130 cows, they opened up their newly minted emergency plan.

“This was the first incidence of this magnitude for us, and the plan was a fantastic resource,” says Gerald Basten, Kent’s deputy emergency program coordinator and deputy fire chief. “The next morning we started talking about what to do with the carcasses. The plan pointed us in the right direction.”

When they referred to their plan, they knew exactly who to call. Gerald adds: “If you have a plan, you’re ten steps ahead of the game.” Yes, he is another former Boy Scout.

The Foundation delivers the federal-provincial Livestock Waste Tissue Initiative on behalf of the provincial government.