Today we are talking about search and rescue equipment. TalesAndTails.com has received email inquiring about what types of things that we use while searching to help protect ourselves and our K-9 partners.
Our team has a recommended minimum required equipment list of items which each member carries during a search. Most of our team members use some sort of back pack to keep everything stored in an orderly fashion. In the back pack we have a personal first aid kit, compass, whistle, eye protection, exam gloves, water, flashlight and spare batteries, head protection, vest/reflective coat, food (protein bar etc.), agency ID, notebook and pen, and any required medication. We are also required to wear boots (covering the ankles), with a long sleeve shirt/coat with us, and wear long pants. These items basically will cover the types of searches we are called out to. Other items you might find are a roll of para cord, a throw away parka, light sticks and candy. For the most part this will cover our ground search and rescue members.
For our group members who are on the K-9 team, we start with the same list. It’s funny but it seems that I have more junk in the trunk for this search stuff than I ever did before volunteering in this activity. Our personal safety equipment for training and working in disaster environments consists of a hard hat, knee pads, and ear and eye protection. Personally I keep all my K-9 items in one bag, called a Go Bag. This bag is always stocked and ready to go, hence the name.
I would also add at this point that our K-9s typically do not wear any type of foot protection. This is a common question that we receive when people see the K-9’s working on the debris. Due to the debris piles being unstable it is safer for the dogs to search without foot protection. The dogs are able feel what is under their paws more effectively allowing them to adjust and avoid injury quickly.
For the K-9’s trained for water searches and working on boats, their handlers are required to wear a personal flotation devise. It is up to the handler whether or not their K-9 partner wears a flotation vest. The trailing dogs wear a harness and use a fifteen to thirty foot long line. Everyone carries water. One of the best inventions made is the Camelback water bladder, or something similar. This is basically a one liter water bottle that is part of a back pack or put in one.
Outside of the items that we have on ourselves our team is lucky enough to have a trailer that is supplied with extra goodies. We store extra water, food and our FIDO Bag from K-9 Defender Fund. The FIDO Bag is full of K-9 first aid supplies. We also have a K-9 stretcher in the trailer that during deployments one of the K-9 support persons carries in case of an emergency. Along with these items there is also a small folding pool that can be filled to either wash the dogs or cool them off depending on the need.
The difficult thing about being a K-9 handler is finding that thin line of what to actually have on our person. The longer I volunteer with the group and the more people that are met at training’s you tend to learn what actually works and what does not. Remember the handlers are running behind their K-9 partner during searches. Sometimes less is more.