The urban search and rescue team was sent to the world trade center after 9/11 and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. They're called Nebraska Task Force 1, and with the help of expert dog handlers they prepare for the worst right here in the Capital city.
In the entire country there are just over 200 of these nationally certified rescue dogs. The Capital city is home to four of them, and if all goes well, another three by next month. The dogs and handlers are hard at work preparing for that test and today we had an exclusive look on their training.
Buried alive after a natural disaster.... this sound (Dog barking)... Could save your life. Dog Handler Damon Wirth says, "What our dogs do is detect live, human scent. If there's a tornado, earthquake, any kind of national disaster man made disaster we have our dogs here that are going to be in there to locate the people we can't find."
It's part of the Nebraska Task Force One, Urban Search and Rescue Training. Search Team Manager, Steve Dolezal says, "This is probably the hardest thing you can do with a dog"
Firefighter Damon Wirth and his dog George were paired together last winter. He says, "He's with me 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. So you build a really tight bond"
When the dogs find a person, they're rewarded with plenty of playtime. But they have to learn to do it in some of the most difficult conditions. The dogs are able to quickly search a large and potentially dangerous area... But they have to complete hours of rigorous training first. "Our dogs have to do the agility portion they have to learn the scent portion plus they have to get it up on here plus they have to do it in whatever kind of environment we're going to get them to."
Not all the handlers are firefighters but they are all volunteers. And they all do it for one reason. "The chance to be able to save one person, that's ultimately what we're here for is to be able to make a difference in one person's life...if our dogs can find that one person to get at and make a difference in their life down the road I think it's totally worth the time we volunteer and dedicate to this."
Three of these rescue dogs training today are actually rescues themselves from an organization in California. The trainers flew out there last winter to get paired up with their dog. If you're interested in learning more about their search and rescue team you can log on to searchdogfoundation.org or http://www.lincoln.ne.gov/city/fire/usar/index.htm
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