OJAI, Calif., April 4 /PRNewswire/ — They worked tirelessly to save lives in the Oklahoma City bombing. They arrived at Ground Zero on 9/11 and searched for survivors around the clock for days. And now they are in our nation’s capital and dozens of other cities, ready to go at a moment’s notice should disaster once again strike the U.S. They’re the elite FEMA-certified urban search dogs trained by the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation and provided at no cost to firefighters and law enforcement across the country. “Many Americans are uneasy right now and concerned about the possibility of further terrorism on U.S. soil in response to the start of the war in Iraq,” said NDSDF director Wilma Melville. “In this time of uncertainty and tension, it is a good feeling to know that dogs and handlers are prepared and are ready for any happening.”
Currently there are 50 NDSDF-trained disaster search dogs working throughout the nation; of those, 30 are FEMA-certified. The newest NDSDF graduates were assigned to the U.S. Capitol Police K-9 unit earlier this month. Those teams are standing by to lead rescue efforts in the event of a terrorist attack in or around the capitol building.
The NDSDF is now beginning a campaign to place an additional 300 first responder rescue dogs throughout the U.S. in an effort to prepare the country for any natural or man made disaster.
NDSDF dogs typically come to the program from shelters, breed rescues and individuals. Because NDSDF is a private non-profit organization with no government funding, the dogs wait to begin training until sufficient funds have been raised. During the fundraising period, which can last from six months to a year, the dogs stay in short-term volunteer homes where they learn socialization skills and are evaluated for the qualities that make successful disaster search dogs.
From there, dogs with the right combination of qualities spend six month sin an intensive training program designed to prepare them mentally and physically for locating live humans in the wreckage of buildings. Upon graduation, dogs are placed with handlers — usually firefighters — and most teams complete rigorous testing to receive advanced FEMA certification.
“Our teams train and train, week in and week out, year in and year out,disaster or no disaster,” said Melville. “The result is clear: they are on the alert to be deployed to a disaster site and to search until called off.In today’s world, we can’t eliminate the threat of disaster — but these dogscan certainly help increase the survival rate of those directly affected.”
For more information about the NDSDF and its disaster search dog teams,visit the organization’s website at http://www.searchdogsusa.org