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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
My educational group IDK9 hosted a building search workshop for USAR handlers and their dogs this weekend. The workshop was held here in Connecticut in an old mental hospital building complex. Its a really creepy place to train, and we can set up some very complex scent problems for the dogs. Here are a few photos from the workshop...

A FEMA dog's alert = FBILS (Focused Bark Indicating Live Human Scent). The human "victim" is hidden in the metal cabinet here:


A FEMA GSD showing off his agility skills. This dog is a big boy (80 lbs.) for a USAR dog, but that doesn't seem to stop him from climbing onto everything and anything.


The same FEMA GSD climbing around on some junk. Can you see the hidden human "victim" here?


And, another good hiding place. We shoved this poor IDK9 staff member into all kinds of crazy places this weekend:


Being a "victim" (aka helper) for training sessions like this is really tough. The woman pictured above spent about an hour in that cabinet while several dogs worked to find her (on an individual basis). I spent about 2 hours hiding on top of a row of metal lockers. It wasn't fun, but that's all a part of the training.
 

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Great pictures Konnie, thanks for sharing them. If the person is alive then they indicate by a focused bark (as you've already explained ) and if they locate a deceased person how do they indicate?

I remember reading an article or two about the dogs utilized on 9/11. I don't remember exactly how many dogs...but the handler being interviewed stated that some of the dogs appeared "depressed" from finding only remains. I'm guessing that when you all train using remains....there are several live finds in the same training session? Would this be "acceptable" if, God forbid, an incident such as 9/11 ever occured again.....to hide someone in a building adjacent to the actual scene...so that the dog gets to find someone alive ? or was that already being done?
 

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Nice pictures Konnie. You're right. It's not easy being a helper but it is a lot of fun especially when we try to come up with creative places to hide in. Keep those pics coming!
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Great pictures Konnie, thanks for sharing them. If the person is alive then they indicate by a focused bark (as you've already explained ) and if they locate a deceased person how do they indicate?
FEMA dogs "officially" only search for live humans. That is our mission. However, many FEMA dogs are cross-trained for both. The alert depends simply on what the handler has trained the dog to do. It could be sit or digging or whatever, but it should be different from their live alert.

I remember reading an article or two about the dogs utilized on 9/11. I don't remember exactly how many dogs...but the handler being interviewed stated that some of the dogs appeared "depressed" from finding only remains.
I don't think the dogs were acting "depressed" for the reason that they were finding only human remains. That's a human emotion being applied to the dogs. The "depression" did occur in some dogs, but I feel it was related more to feeding off the handler's attitude or perhaps even just being tired. The dogs worked long hours for several days, which is something they're not used to doing on a regular basis. My husband and his dog were deployed to the WTC with FEMA. We keep our dogs in incredible shape and my husband, a fireman, knows how to keep head together during stressful situations. His dog showed no signs of depression (or even slowing down for that matter).


I'm guessing that when you all train using remains....there are several live finds in the same training session?
It depends on the training scenario. Most people separate the training, but if you had a cross-trained dog and wanted to mimic the response to a large-scale disaster, then it would be prudent to combine them in training at some point. The handler should be sure the dog will not alert on dead if commanded to find live. Finding live humans is the priority in a disaster. The dead can be recovered later. This is why I don't like to cross train disaster dogs. There's just too much room for error. Not saying it can't be done, but just saying I wouldn't do it because I haven't seen it work perfectly. Cross-trained dogs who responded to the WTC made mistakes such as giving their live alert on dead or alerting on dead when told to find live. That is a big deal when you have limited rescue resources. Imagine your dog giving you a live alert on a dead person and 8 hours is spent by the rescue crew to pull out a cadaver. Meanwhile, a live person expires elsewhere because the rescue resources were occupied with this dead person. Too much to risk there. This is different from a wilderness search dog who is looking for a specific person, regardless of whether they are alive or dead.

Would this be "acceptable" if, God forbid, an incident such as 9/11 ever occured again.....to hide someone in a building adjacent to the actual scene...so that the dog gets to find someone alive ? or was that already being done?
That was being done to keep the dogs motivated. We view it as a necessity in a long-term deployment.
 

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Konnie, you make a valid point relative cross-training SAR and cadaver. As much as we like to think the dogs will do exactly as we want them too, the mission is to find the living. As cold as it seems, there isn't anything that can be done for the dead in those first crucial hours. Training in a building, as you've demonstrated should be challenging. If you don't challenge the dogs, they just don't improve. A philosophy I try to instil in everyone of my handlers is; "You'll never know what your dog can do until you find out what he can not do."

DFrost
 

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Thanks for answering my question Konnie.....I actually thought that all the dogs were cross-trained - thanks for clearing that up for me.
 
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