K-9s chase 'Disaster Search Dog' certificationPosted: Updated:
Twenty-four canines and their search specialist handlers from across the nation were in Phoenix over the weekend to take the FEMA disaster preparedness certification test.
The evaluation includes a test of canine obedience, agility, alert behavior, and handler skill.
Once certified, the teams will be readily deployable to national emergencies like 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina.
To qualify as a Disaster Search Dog, the animal is subjected to 2,000 hours of training. The test involves the dog searching two 15,000 square foot rubble sites, finding completely buried live victims and ignoring distractions such as hamburgers, steak, clothing and dog toys. A false alert on anything except a live victim is an automatic failure.
A handler may look at 20 to more than 100 dogs before finding a canine partner that has the qualities and drive to do this type of work.
In some cases, a rescued dog from a local shelter is brought into the program. Other search dogs begin their careers as eight-week-old pups.
Once certified, the dog and handler are able to deploy to international, national or local disasters with a FEMA Urban Search and Rescue team, such as the task force in Phoenix - AZ-TF1. AZ-TF1 - manned by Phoenix firefighters. The task force has been deployed to disasters, including the World Trade Center and hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Ike.
Phoenix Fire Disaster Search dogs are also used locally to find missing people. These local searches can be for a missing toddler, Alzheimer's patient or an injured hiker.
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