South San Francisco Fire Department’s Canine Receives FEMA Certification

South San Francisco, CA   March 29, 2016  Submitted by Leslie Arroyo, Communications Director City of SSF

SSFFD has only FEMA Certified Canine in San Mateo County for International Deployment

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The City of South San Francisco Fire Department (SSFFD) is pleased to announce that one of its top Search and Rescue (SAR) program canines, “Allie,” has become Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) certified for Live-Find human detection over the next three years. At this time, the two-and-a-half year-old Border Collie is San Mateo County’s only eligible canine for international deployment.

To help save lives during disaster emergencies, certified Search and Rescue dogs like Allie are sent to countries such as Iran, Haiti, Japan, Indonesia and more. Allie trained with her SSFFD handler for over a year before completing certification in early March. Her training locations included the NASA Ames Research Center, which is one of the ten NASA field centers located at Moffett Field, before she trained at a FEMA testing site in Phoenix, Arizona.

“We couldn’t be prouder of Allie for her hard work and dedication to Search and Rescue. We are also grateful to our City management for their continuous support of the K-9 Program we have in place at the South San Francisco Fire Department,” said Thomas Carney, Safety Inspector and K-9 Coordinator for Search and Rescue, SSFFD.

It was nearly a year ago when California sent six canine search dogs, those of the same family of “Allie,” to Nepal to help find people buried under the rubble of a massive earthquake.

“Often, these search and rescue dogs are heavily relied on to find ‘live’ victims, as in many places, they don’t have the necessary equipment and materials to do this on their own,” added Carney.

FEMA Standard for International Search & Rescue
According to FEMA’s certification policy, teams that pass its testing are some of the most highly trained canine resources in the country. Each canine candidate must clear a rigorous National Urban Search and Rescue standard to achieve FEMA certification. These tests, comprised of scenarios as close to real life emergency conditions as possible, feature piles of rubble at a minimum of 15,000 square feet and made up of concrete, vehicles and wood.

Abilities that canines are evaluated on by FEMA for Live-Find certification include the following:

• Proper command control and agility skills

• A focused bark alert to indicate a live find

• Persistence to search in spite of extreme temperatures and animal, food and noise distractions

• Confidence to search independently

• Ability to negotiate slippery surfaces and navigate dark tunnels

“When you consider the level of heroism these dogs display, you can really understand how they earned a moniker of ‘man’s best friend,’” continued Carney. “There is still so much we don’t know about the power of a canine’s senses in helping humans, but what is clear is that their abilities are truly remarkable.”

For more information about the K-9 Search and Rescue Program, please visit https://www.fema.gov/canine-handler-certification.

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