PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - In a disaster, your best shot at being found alive might walk on four legs. Rescue dogs play a vital role when pulling people out of the rubble, and on Friday Phoenix Fire Department showed the media how they train.
Phoenix Fire Capt. Dana Medlin came with his pup Elvis.
“He was named after a dog that worked at the World Trade Center named Elvis from the Massachusetts task force,” Medlin said.
Phoenix Fire Department has multiple canines that can respond during large-scale emergencies.
They train on a special rubble pile in south Phoenix that mimics a disaster zone. People hide in cars and under slabs of concrete, and the specially-trained dogs can sniff them out.
“They can cover this pile in minutes, where it would take people hours,” Medlin said.
The dogs and their handlers train three days a week for hours at a time, all so they’re ready for when the call comes.
Phoenix Fire’s rescue dogs have been deployed to incidents across the country, from natural disasters to terrorist attacks.
And for dogs hoping to join the ranks, this weekend will be an important step.
“They have to go through a pretty extensive certification process in order to be deployed to these incidents,” said Phoenix Fire Capt. Danny Gile.
Phoenix Fire’s untested dogs, and animals from 31 other agencies across the country, will come to the South Phoenix mock disaster site to become FEMA certified.
They’ll search for live humans, while avoiding decoys like food and pre-worn clothing.
One of the dogs that’ll be testing this weekend will be Elvis, though Medlin says he’s certain he’ll succeed.
“When the dog passes the test, it’s one of the biggest feelings of pride that you can have,” Medlin said.
It’s a lifesaving bond between dog and human.
“They’re part of the family,” Medlin said.
Medlin says Elvis goes home with him, goes on camping trips with the family and sleeps in his children’s bed.
“They just happen to have this special gift and job.”
A relationship that places new meaning on the phrase “man’s best friend.”