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AHA joins forces with ACT government to build biosecurity response capability

17 May

It is often said within the biosecurity community that anything that moves – whether it is a person, an animal or even a vehicle – risks causing an incident. In the event of a bushfire, however, sometimes the only thing to do is get out of the way. As there are always biosecurity considerations in any emergency movement of livestock, emergency responders of all stripes need to be aware of the systems and structures for detecting and responding to biosecurity threats.

Animal Health Australia (AHA) recently worked with the ACT Government to train staff from the Environment Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate (EPSDD) on their possible roles and responsibilities during an incident which involves an inherent biosecurity risk.

Emergency responders in Australia, by and large, follow a structure called the Australasian Inter-Service Incident Management System, or AIIMS. Due to the nature of a biosecurity incident – which can be a much more of a ‘slow burn’ compared to a natural disaster or a law enforcement incident, and can grow in scope and scale rapidly – biosecurity emergency responders follow the Biosecurity Incident Management System, or BIMS, which is a response framework based on AIIMS.

“Many of our staff have firefighting backgrounds and have been working under the AIIMS structure,” said the ACT Biosecurity and Rural Services’ Rural Programs Coordinator, Kirsten Tasker.

“This workshop allowed them to see both the similarities and differences between AIIMS and BIMS, and understand where their skills will fit into the BIMS framework.”

AHA’s Training Team collaborated with training consultant and seasoned BIMS expert Tony Callan, to deliver the one-day workshop which focused on a fictional emergency animal disease scenario as a backdrop to the conversation about the structure and nature of a BIMS-guided control centre.

“We wanted to help the staff, who may not have as much experience with biosecurity emergencies as with other crises, understand how they might be called to help during an animal disease outbreak,” said AHA’s Senior Manager Training, Ben Byrne.

“Perhaps most importantly, we hoped to leave them with some understanding of how a biosecurity emergency differs from a traditional emergency, and the trigger points that take it from detection through to a fully planned response.”

The workshop was a huge success, with participants from the Biosecurity and Rural Services team itself, along with compliance officers, veterinarians and pest and weed specialists in the Territory.

“Everyone now has a better understanding of the BIMS structure and their potential roles and responsibilities,” said Kirsten.

“More importantly, they had a chance to explore their skills and how their role could impact the communication flow or present issues working across purposes.”

“We’re also much more confident on how we access resources to undertake a biosecurity emergency response, such as AUSVETPLAN, PLANTPLAN and the BIMS manuals themselves.”

Animal Health Australia can provide biosecurity emergency response training and awareness sessions to members and supply chain stakeholders. Please contact us at for more information.