National Disaster Search Dog Foundation Rescue Teams Deployed to Japan
by Daniel Haim
The National Disaster Search Dog Foundation (SDF), a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization dedicated to recruiting rescued dogs and partnering them with firefighters to find people buried alive in the wreckage of disasters, deployed Canine Disaster Search Teams to Japan last week to assist with the rescue efforts in response to the powerful 8.9 earthquake that struck the island nation on March 11th.
Six canines and their firefighter-handlers trained by the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation are searching from dawn to dark, combing the wreckage in Ofunato City on the North East coast of Japan to find survivors buried alive in the rubble. Their base of operations is a gymnasium which California Task Force 2 shares with Virginia Task Force 1 and a British Task Force, our partners in the search effort.
The teams are ‘delayering’ areas at a time so that Task Force members can remove layers of debris after being searched. The dogs have been divided into groups in order to continue the search around the clock.
The job of the Search Dogs is to find live victims, conscious or unconscious, in the debris left by the earthquake and tsunami. All rescue personnel will be awaiting a “Bark Alert” from the dogs, letting them know there is someone in need of rescue. Equally important is the dogs’ ability to “clear” an area, i.e. determine that there is no one alive in the wreckage, and the rescue crews can move on to the next site. Everything the teams have learned during their intensive training will be put to use in saving lives.
“Every minute counts as the teams work to find people buried beneath the rubble,” says SDF Founder, Wilma Melville. “After the Haiti deployment, this is a battle-seasoned group. If there are people still alive in the rubble, the dogs will find them. I am so proud of every canine and handler out there combing the debris for signs of life, and feel confident in their abilities knowing they have had the best training possible and are at their highest skill level.”
SDF is the only organization in America dedicated to partnering rescued dogs with firefighters and providing them at no cost to fire departments to find people trapped in the wreckage of disasters. They have rescued hundreds of dogs, many on the brink of euthanasia, and turned them into highly skilled rescuers.
Their 71 teams have responded to 76 disasters, including the World Trade Center attacks, Hurricane Katrina, and the Haiti earthquake— where they helped bring 12 people to safety. Each time the teams deploy they come back with crucial lessons that are shared with all Search Teams to sharpen training techniques and tactics and enhance emergency response in our country and abroad.
SDF will train 21 new teams in 2011 (at a cost of $15,000 per team) to be ready for the next local, national or international disaster. SDF receives no government funding and relies solely on support from individuals, private foundations, and companies to provide this critical resource—at no cost to fire departments or taxpayers.
About The National Disaster Search Dog Foundation (SDF)
The Search Dog Foundation is a nonprofit whose mission is to strengthen emergency response in America by teaming rescued dogs with firefighters to find people trapped in the wreckage of disasters. Since its founding in 1996, SDF has rescued hundreds of dogs, many on the brink of euthanasia. They have trained 117 Search Teams, 75 of which are currently active.
For more information about the Search Teams or to make a donation to turn rescued dogs into rescuers, help form our new 2011 teams, and provide the highest-level training to our existing teams: visit www.SearchDogFoundation.org, and follow the teams on Facebook and Twitter.