COLLEGE STATION – Forty-five canine search specialist (CSS) teams plus 10 additional search and rescue personnel were on hand for the 10th annual FEMA CSS Training Weekend at Disaster City? in College Station on March 22-23. The event is sponsored by Texas Task Force 1 and is recognized as a top workshop for canine teams.
Fifteen U.S. search and rescue task forces were represented at the event, which included a series of scenarios geared to help them meet training objectives and prepare for deployment. The teams rotated through training scenarios on Rubble Piles 1 and 2, the passenger train, inside several structures, and the Technical Skills Training Area, as well as a rotation with members of the Veterinary Emergency Team, who conducted medical checks of the dogs.
“The weekend event is set up similar to a deployment,” said TX-TF1 Training Manager Susann Brown. “Teams get the opportunity to train on more props and spend more of their day in actual training than at many other events. Disaster City is the only place with this variety of props in close proximity, so it presents more challenges for the dogs and handlers. Many of the FEMA-certified canines have trained at Disaster City.
“This training event allows handlers and canines to train with teams from around the country, and we get the benefit of new sets of eyes on our training props. We are always open to suggestions for improvements so we can continue to train at the highest level possible.”
It was the first trip to Disaster City for Mark Schroeder and his canine partner Noah of Nebraska Task Force 1. Noah is a 4-year-old yellow lab who was partnered with Schroeder through the Search Dog Foundation, and was certified last September.
“It has been a great experience, and Noah loves it here,” Schroeder said. “There are different scenarios here and he has to figure them out. We liked the big rubble pile and the building searches. We don’t have many opportunities to train on building searches, and the scents react differently inside a building. They do a terrific job here.”
About Texas Task Force 1
TX-TF1 is sponsored by the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service, or TEEX, and has deployed over 90 times since 1997, including the Space Shuttle Columbia tragedy, Sept. 11th World Trade Center attack, and Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Ike. TX-TF1 can be activated by the Texas Division of Emergency Management or as one of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) 28 sanctioned urban search and rescue teams.
Members of TX-TF1 range from firefighters and medical personnel, to structural engineers, and come from all areas capable of reporting to College Station within a five-hour window. The task force consists of three separate units of approximately 80 members each. The teams rotate on a monthly standby, stand down or on call status.
Texas Task Force 1 Website: www.texastaskforce1.org/