Forty-five canine search specialist (CSS) teams plus 10 additional search and rescue personnel were on hand for the 10th annual FEMA CSS Training Weekend at Disaster City® in College Station on March 22-23. The event is sponsored by Texas Task Force 1 and is recognized as a top workshop for canine teams.
Fifteen U.S. search and rescue task forces were represented at the event, which included a series of scenarios geared to help them meet training objectives and prepare for deployment. The teams rotated through training scenarios on Rubble Piles 1 and 2, the passenger train, inside several structures, and the Technical Skills Training Area, as well as a rotation with members of the Veterinary Emergency Team, who conducted medical checks of the dogs.
“The weekend event is set up similar to a deployment,” said TX-TF1 Training Manager Susann Brown. “Teams get the opportunity to train on more props and spend more of their day in actual training than at many other events. Disaster City is the only place with this variety of props in close proximity, so it presents more challenges for the dogs and handlers. Many of the FEMA-certified canines have trained at Disaster City.
“This training event allows handlers and canines to train with teams from around the country, and we get the benefit of new sets of eyes on our training props. We are always open to suggestions for improvements so we can continue to train at the highest level possible.”
It was the first trip to Disaster City for Mark Schroeder and his canine partner Noah (pictured at left) of Nebraska Task Force 1. Noah is a 4-year-old yellow lab who was partnered with Schroeder through the Search Dog Foundation, and was certified last September.
“It has been a great experience, and Noah loves it here,” Schroeder said. “There are different scenarios here and he has to figure them out. We liked the big rubble pile and the building searches. We don’t have many opportunities to train on building searches, and the scents react differently inside a building. They do a terrific job here.”