K9 team finds success in ‘Quake training

VISDDAC Dog Handler Jeanette VanDijk and dog Phoenix, a Lab mix, take part in a MUSAR training exercise at Work Point, 
May 31. Photo: Peter Mallett/Lookout

VISDDAC Dog Handler Jeanette VanDijk and dog Phoenix, a Lab mix, take part in a MUSAR training exercise at Work Point, May 31. Photo: Peter Mallett/Lookout

Peter Mallett
Staff Writer

A team of internationally certified rescue dog handlers has completed their first training exercise with the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF).

Four handlers and K9s from Vancouver Island Search and Disaster Dogs Association of Canada (VISDDAC) worked with 25 members of CFB Esquimalt’s Medium Urban Search and Rescue (MUSAR) team in the weeklong exercise at Work Point at the beginning of June.

Richard Berben, a retired firefighter and VISDDAC president, says the first-ever opportunity to work alongside CAF members in such a scenario is crucial to his team’s training for a real-life disaster.

“To be imbedded with an Urban Search and Rescue team and learn how best to use the K9 resource in a training scenario provides invaluable learning opportunities,” said Berben.

The volunteer handlers and their dogs were involved in a training scenario where casualty actors were trapped in collapsed buildings following a catastrophic 7.5 earthquake. The Search and Rescue K9s use their acute olfactory sense, estimated to be 100,000 times greater than humans, to detect the presence of trapped people in the rubble.

The actors were positioned in safe locations beneath the rubble, and the dogs narrowed their sites down to a couple of feet, says Glenn Cooper, MUSAR Team Commander.

“The K9s decreased the amount of effort and time required to safely extract the casualties,” he said.

With the help of K9s and their handlers, MUSAR volunteers located 100 per cent of the live casualty roll players.

Cooper says VISDDAC volunteers have used his team’s Disaster Response Training site at Work Point for the past few years to gain international certification. VISDDAC volunteers were highly professional and focused during the recent training exercise, says Cooper, while also noting their integration into the training was nearly seamless and highly successful.

“These interagency exercises are very important to the Department of National Defence and our partner agencies,” said Cooper. “We will be working alongside each other when a major disaster happens so we need to be familiar with operating procedures.”

VISDDAC volunteer Jeannette Van Dijk, a Rehab Assistant for a Vancouver-based veterinarian, and her dog Phoenix, a Labrador retriever mix, says the key to freeing survivors is determining if her dog has detected the scent.

“Once Phoenix gets excited, I can help direct her to the rubble pile and get as close as possible to the hidden subjects,” said Van Dijk.

Van Dijk and the other dog handlers said their interactions with the MUSAR team and other military members during their time at the Base were very positive.

VISDDAC is looking to expand its membership, so if you are interested in learning more, Berben suggests connecting with them through their website:

Filed Under: Featured


About the Author:

RSSComments (0)

Trackback URL

Comments are closed.