Two high-profile K9 Search-and-Rescue teams that use Mission Manager for their training and deployments were recently featured in the POLICE Magazine article, “Computerizing K-9 Search-and-Rescue.” The article, which appears in POLICE Magazine’s March issue and newsletter, shines the spotlight on Chesapeake Search Dogs and Search One Rescue Team and their vital support to the law enforcement community.
We are pleased to share excerpts from the article, below, which can also be downloaded here.
COMPUTERIZING K-9 SEARCH-AND-RESCUE
Volunteer K-9 groups that work with law enforcement to find missing persons use team management and incident command software to make their operations more efficient and effective
The call can come any time, but usually it comes in the middle of the night. When it does, the volunteer K-9 teams from the Chesapeake Search Dogs and Search One Rescue Team remain ready to respond—at any hour of the day—to assist public safety personnel in finding lost and missing persons.
For more than a decade, the Chesapeake Search Dogs organization has partnered with the Maryland State Police, Maryland Natural Resources Police, federal and local law enforcement and other government agencies in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia to provide K-9 search services at no cost.
In the Dallas / Fort Worth area, the 36-member Search One Rescue Team has helped more than 120 government agencies locate lost or missing persons since 1983.
Both are comprised entirely of volunteers and their dogs.
But even though no one is being paid for their work on the teams, both Search One and Chesapeake Search Dogs have demanding standards and rigorous training requirements. Dogs and owners are typically trained in one or more of three disciplines: air scent, trailing, and locating human remains.
“To get a dog and handler to operational certification takes about 18 months,” says Dennis Ciesla, training coordinator for Chesapeake Search Dogs, which has seven operational dogs and handlers.
Donations pay for operating expenses, which include equipment and required insurance. Training is the responsibility of dog owners, who receive guidance and mentoring from more experienced members. But even after a dog and owner are deemed operational, they continue to spend many hours perfecting their skills.
Chesapeake Search Dogs requires its members to attend an all-day training one Saturday per month, and there are two team trainings each week, one mandatory. “This is a very elite group,” says Ed Thayer, 59, a fence contractor and Chesapeake’s director of operations. “You are looking at between 400 and 900 hours a year that people put into this.”
Chesapeake Search Dogs and Search One Rescue Team are just two of the volunteer K-9 search-and-rescue groups nationwide whose members spend countless hours training themselves and their dogs so they can be ready to assist local public safety agencies.
Their job is complex, and it requires a lot of organization and management, which is why some of these groups are now using team management/incident management software tools.
Search One and Chesapeake Search Dogs both rely on cloud-based Mission Manager Incident Management software to help manage their personnel and equipment, and also enhance situational awareness in the field.
I use it every single day. It is a huge part of what we do,” said Laura Hennig, 40, a volunteer with Search One who also serves as a 6th grade public school teacher by day. She and her K9 Gunnar, a 5-year-old male German shepherd, are often called on to find a missing Alzheimer’s patient, a lost hiker or a body.
Mission Manager plays a key role in the teams’ training, searches and debriefs. At the most basic level, Mission Manager is used for posting training schedules and allowing members to respond with their objectives, so training can be coordinated. The web-based software helps them develop mock scenarios, including checking-in and checking-out personnel, creating subject profiles, setting up task assignments and mapping out the search areas.
“More importantly, we use it on searches,” Hennig said. “It has Google Maps and Google Earth built into it, so we are able to measure a sector and track the search teams using real-time GPS. At base, they can see where I’m walking, they can see where my dog is walking. If a call comes in about someone spotting something, they can see that I’m 30 yards from that location, and send me there.
“It has all of our radio communications, so if I’m calling base and telling you where I am at, that’s logged into Mission Manager. It’s complete accountability. We are even able to use it to send out a missing person’s flyer. It’s amazing.”
Before deploying Mission Manager three years ago, Search One used disparate tools to keep track of personnel, training and missions, according to Jess Romero, Director of Search Managers for Search One. “Now, with Mission Manager, everything is all in one place, and Search One is able to hit the ground running.”