Oklahoma Search And Rescue Dogs Prepare For Severe Weather
OKLAHOMA CITY - An elite pack of K-9s is ready to jump into action this severe weather season. Oklahoma's Urban Search and Rescue Task Force responds to tornadoes and other disastrous events. For the dogs on the team, training is synonymous with playtime, but they are prepared to save lives.
Piles of concrete around Oklahoma City are perfect for simulating disaster. A firefighter usually plays the victim, and K-9s take turns catching their scent. It is a weekly exercise. “We train year round for this time of year,” says Major Andrew McCann, an Oklahoma City firefighter who serves as the K-9 coordinator for the task force.
McCann says K-9s like his partner Laya can pick up a human's scent from quite the distance, but she is really seeking out her favorite toy, which is her reward for a job well done.
“All they’re doing is playing hide and seek,” says McCann. “It’s a game to them and it’s fun and they enjoy it, and it’s not work.”
Even though Laya and other young dogs on the task force have yet to respond to a real crisis, McCann is confident they will be ready when the time comes. He says, “We do this so much, to her the game doesn’t change. It’s the same game.”
These dogs have changed the game when it comes to search and rescue after a tornado, though. McCann explains, “What took us days on May 3, 1999 took literally hours on May 20, 2013 because we had K-9s in 2013 that we did not have available to us in 1999.”
Firefighters say if you do become trapped, try not to panic because help is on the way. “The most important thing you can try to do is conserve your energy,” McCann advises.
If you stay patient and calm, eventually one of the K-9s will show up to save you. Firefighters will be right behind them. “
Try to follow the instructions of the rescuers that are coming to assist you,” McCann says. “We will find you.”
To learn more about how these elite dogs are trained, click here.