The Texas Engineering Extension Service’s renowned Disaster City and urban search and rescue team Texas Task Force 1 will host the national FEMA Disaster Search Canine Readiness Evaluation October 21-22.
A record 24 canines and handlers representing 16 national FEMA urban search and rescue teams are scheduled to participate in the evaluation at Disaster City, one of the top sites in the United States for canine and training testing and evaluation. Two of the testing teams will represent Texas Task Force 1, which is sponsored by TEEX.
The Disaster Search Canine Readiness Evaluation tests the canines and handlers for inclusion into one of FEMA’s 28 teams in the national urban search and rescue program that respond to manmade and natural disasters. It takes approximately two years for a canine to become “mission ready” in the areas of obedience, agility, directability and rubble search for participation in the FEMA evaluation.
Live “victims” will be placed in constructed hiding places beneath the rubble piles at Disaster City, Texas Task Force 1’s home training base. The rubble sites range from 6,000 to 15,000 square feet and are constructed of concrete, wood and mixed material. The hides will test the canine’s ability to search out live human scent. Handlers, in turn, are evaluated on their ability to function as a canine search specialist.
Training for the evaluation requires hundreds of hours, and handlers provide their services on a volunteer basis. They must also supply their own equipment and often train for years with their dog before participating in the stringent FEMA evaluations.
Texas Task Force 1, in addition to its status as a FEMA urban search and rescue team, serves as Texas’ only statewide urban search and rescue team under the direction of the Governor’s Division of Emergency Management. The Task Force is comprised of more than 300 emergency responders from more than 60 organizations and departments throughout Texas, with members ranging from firefighters to medical personnel.
Disaster City is a 52-acre urban search and rescue training facility near the Texas A&M University campus that features full-size collapsible structures. The facility replicates community infrastructure, including a strip mall, office building, industrial complex, assembly hall/theater, single family dwelling, train derailment and three rubble piles. Disaster City attracts emergency responders from throughout the world for search and rescue training and exercises.
TEEX, a member of The Texas A&M University System, offers hands-on, customized training, technical assistance and emergency response services impacting Texas and beyond. Agency programs include fire services, homeland security, public safety and security, public works, safety and health, search and rescue, and economic solutions.