For immediate release

# 66-21

November 17, 2021 – Last week, the New York City Department of Emergency Management conducted the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) latest urban search and rescue canine assessments. Dogs and their handlers are a vital part of urban search and rescue teams tasked with finding casualties during difficult search and rescue missions. Assessment is a key part of a certification process that ensures dogs and handlers are properly trained and prepared for their new roles. During the three-day assessment, dog handlers from New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Colorado arrived at the New York Task Force 1 Dog Training Center at the Fresh Kills Landfill on Staten Island for put their furry counterparts to the test.

The dogs and their handlers were tested on two makeshift piles, intended to simulate an actual structural collapse or disaster scene. The piles consisted of reinforced concrete, structural steel, rebar, precast concrete, vehicles and timber structures.

On the certification exam, each canine / handler team was given 20 minutes to complete a search, one stack at a time, with a 10-minute commute and a break before the next search. Handlers were not aware of the number of casualties buried in the pile, so assessors could give a blind assessment. To indicate if they have found a victim, the dog should bark at least three times, making sure to stay with the victim until the handler arrives. Once the dog indicates the presence of a living human scent, the handler rewards the dog, marks the location of the victim with a piece of duct tape, and deploys the dog to search for additional victims. The 13 canine teams have all passed their assessments and will join their local urban search and rescue teams. When urban search and rescue teams are not deployed, dogs serve as patrol dogs to help officers detect narcotics or locate a missing person.

A US&R handler prepares his dog for action.

“The canine certification process is important because the skills and abilities of the handler and the dog are tested and confirmed in an environment designed to replicate a real-life scenario that they may encounter during a deployment. Disasters can strike at any time, so it is imperative that our team of handlers and their dogs are ready at all times, ”said NYC Emergency Management US&R Program Director Brittany Schiliro. “Earlier this year, three of our canine research specialists and canine teams deployed to the Surfside Building Collapse in Florida, where they applied their extensive training and certification to on-site operations. ”

NYC Emergency Management sponsors the Urban Search and Rescue – New York Task Force 1 (US&R NY-TF1) team, made up of specially trained personnel from the New York Fire Department (FDNY) and the New York City Police Department York (NYPD). The FEMA US&R program was originally a natural disaster response system. Since the inception of the program, working groups have broadened the scope of US&R work. The team deployed in response to natural and man-made emergencies, including the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Following the September 11 attacks, NY-TF1 canine / handler teams worked for seven months, digging through mutilated steel frames and concrete, looking for any sign of life. There are currently 28 FEMA US&R teams strategically located across the United States, ready for deployment within six hours of activation.

MEDIA CONTACT: Tashawn Brown (718) 422-4888

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