COLLEGE STATION – The Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service (TEEX) recently hosted the National FEMA Canine Certification Evaluation at Disaster City®. Undergoing evaluations were 17 dogs from 11 FEMA Urban Search and Rescue Task Forces from eight states, said Texas Task Force 1 Search Team Manager Susann Brown. The teams had a 94% pass rate, she added.
FEMA evaluators rated the testing teams on their ability to work together while locating six victims in two rubble piles. Canines must be able to be directed remotely by their handlers (using voice commands and hand signals) and perform a bark indication when they detect a victim.
Texas Task Force 1 (TX-TF1) members volunteered their time to assist with the testing, and 102 volunteers came out over the two-day event to act as victims for the testing teams. One Canine Search Specialist from TX-TF1 participated in the evaluation and located all 6 victims, passing the test and adding another deployable disaster canine team to the Task Force.
“The newest rubble training prop was a big hit with the evaluators and the testing canine teams,” Brown said. It is a very realistic representation of a two-story home or business that has suffered major damage and is based on tornado disasters that TX-TF1 has responded to. The prop set-up included large trees that were placed as if they had been uprooted and had fallen into the area.
Brown added: “Evaluators and testing handlers gave TX-TF1 a perfect score as a host for this event, again demonstrating the outstanding canine training facility and tremendous support we have here at TEEX.”