Home Opinion Venomous Snake Escapes Require Specialized Emergency Planning

Venomous Snake Escapes Require Specialized Emergency Planning


By Allison G. S. Knox
Contributor, EDM Digest

Dangerous animals escaping from zoos is always an alarming situation. Just recently, a bobcat named Ollie escaped from the National Zoo in Washington. Zoo officials, police and animal control specialists searched for the animal for two days in nearby Rock Creek Park, but did not capture it. On Wednesday, Ollie wandered back to the zoo on her own. Officials say she’s in good health and no worse for wear after her burst of freedom.

Certainly, zoos have disaster management plans and work closely with local emergency agencies to make sure everyone is on the same page for handling such an event. Venomous snakes, however, present a very different and potentially deadly challenge.

Venomous Snake Ownership Requires Special Plans to Deal with Escapes

Lots of people keep wild animals such as monkeys and iguanas as pets. Some of those animals are not registered with local authorities because it is illegal to own them. Nevertheless, emergency management personnel and first responders must have a plan in place if those animals were to escape.

However, there are also groups of venomous snake owners, including some who use the snakes in religious practices. Police, fire and emergency medical services should have special plans in place to deal with dangerous snakes on the loose, just as they have procedures to deal with normal house pets in emergency situations. One fire department battling a home fire in James Island, South Carolina, found about 80 snakes, including a dozen or so dangerous reptiles, inside the garage.

Snake Escapes Are More Likely at Reptile Shows

Reptile shows often attract large crowds of snake enthusiasts who bring snakes for demonstrations and to sell. Although reptile shows instruct customers to bring their animals in cages or containers, occasionally some snakes do get free.

Emergency managers need to prepare for such incidents by mapping out plans and communications among the appropriate departments, so they can effectively deal with this potentially hazardous situation. These departments include police animal control units or the Department of Fish and Game.

Be Ready for Unexpected Events

One of the most important lessons of emergency management is be prepared for the unexpected. Hurricanes, tornadoes and major floods, for example, occur fairly regularly.

Strange events like a dangerous reptile on the loose are rare, but they could happen. If first responders plan for these strange events, emergency managers will also have plans in place to deal successfully with these emergencies.

Allison G. S. Knox Passionate about the issues affecting ambulances and disaster management, Allison focuses on Emergency Management and Emergency Medical Services policy. Allison has taught at the undergraduate level since 2010. Prior to teaching, she worked in a level-one trauma center emergency department and for a member of Congress in Washington, D.C. She holds four master’s degrees in Emergency Management, National Security Studies, International Relations, and History; a Graduate Certificate in Homeland Security; and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. Allison is an Emergency Medical Technician, Lifeguard, and Lifeguard Instructor, and is trained in Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue. She serves on the Board of Trustees for Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society as Chancellor of the Southeast Region, Vice Chair of the Tactical Emergency Medical Support Committee with the International Public Safety Association, and serves as the Advocacy Coordinator of Virginia with the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians. She is also a member of several committees including the Editorial Committee with APCO, the Rescue Task Force Committee with the International Public Safety Association, and the Advocacy Committee with the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians. She also serves as Chair of the Leadership Development Program for the 2020 Pi Gamma Mu Triennial Convention. Allison has published several book reviews and continues to write about issues affecting ambulances, emergency management, and homeland security.