Posts

Chesapeake Search Dogs & Search One Rescue Team Featured in POLICE Magazine Article, “Computerizing K-9 Search-and-Rescue”

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

Search One Rescue Team, Chesapeake Search Dogs, Police Magazine, Mission Manager

K9 SAR teams that use Mission Manager – Search One Rescue Team and Chesapeake Search Dogs – talk about their role assisting Law Enforcement in this Police Magazine article.

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.

RIGOROUS TRAINING

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.”

SOFTWARE TOOLS

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.

Laura Hennig, Search One Rescue Team, Police Magazine K9 article, Mission Manager

Laura Hennig, pictured with her K9 Gunnar, uses Mission Manager every day with the Search One Rescue Team.

“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.”

TODAY Show Recognizes Ground Zero Search Dog, Bretagne, on 9/11 Anniversary

September 11, 2014 — This morning, on the 13th Anniversary of 9/11, the TODAY Show aired a poignant segment featuring K9 Rescue Dog, Bretagne  — one of the last known 9/11 Ground Zero service dogs still alive — and owner Denise Corliss, who talked about the search efforts after the tragic event and memories that linger 13 years later.

See videotaped TV segment and article,  also posted below. American Humane Association CEO Dr. Robin Ganzert was also featured on the TODAY Show along with all eight of the AHA 2014 Hero Dog finalists!

As you may know, Mission Manager is a proud sponsor of Bretagne, who represents the search-and-rescue category in the 2014 American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards™ gala on Sept. 27. And speaking of Hero Dogs, don’t forget to vote for Bretagne before ballots close on Monday, September 15.

 

today show dog

Last known 9/11 Ground Zero search dog still lends a helping paw

Some heroes boast muscle and brawn. Others possess steely nerves and impeccable timing. But this hero is a little different.This one has feathery fur, a sunny smile, a calm nature and — for a dog — an uncanny ability to zero in on the people who need her most.

She’s a 15-year-old golden retriever named Bretagne, and she’s believed to be the last surviving search dog who worked at Ground Zero in New York City after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. (One other surviving search dog from 9/11, a 15-year-old English springer spaniel named Morgan, worked at Staten Island.)

For the first time since the recovery efforts after the attack, Bretagne returned this week to the site of the former World Trade Center complex with her longtime handler and owner, Denise Corliss of Cypress, Texas. They were joined by NBC News’ Tom Brokaw, who told their story on TODAY on Thursday morning, Sept. 11.

Corliss fought back tears as she gazed at the 9/11 Memorial’s enormous waterfalls and reflecting pools, which are surrounded by bronze panels bearing the names of the nearly 3,000 people killed in the attacks.“Seeing this kind of took my breath away a bit, similar to how the pile was the first time I saw it,” Corliss, 49, told TODAY.com. “It’s so calm and peaceful now, unlike the chaos of before.“After 9/11, everybody — all of us — felt such sadness. We all wanted to help. I just felt so honored that we were able to respond.”

Bretagne the search dog

Photo Courtesy of Denise Corliss
Bretagne still loves solving search problems at a disaster training site for dogs in Texas. This photo was taken in July 2014.

This year, Bretagne (pronounced “Brittany”) is one of eight finalists for the American Humane Association’s annual Hero Dog Awards. Corliss is preparing to travel with Bretagne to Beverly Hills for a stroll down the red carpet on the night of the award ceremony in late September — a prospect that seems surreal to Corliss, considering how her journey with the dog began.

In the late ‘90s, Corliss, an electrical engineer, became fascinated by the work of disaster search dogs. She learned that civilians — volunteers who receive no pay at all and work and travel at their own expense — can undergo rigorous training with their dogs. If they make the cut, a dog/handler team can support federal emergency response efforts at disaster sites around the United States.

Bretagne the search dog

Courtesy of Denise Corliss
Bretagne has never really felt ready to retire. She still gets excited about putting on a service vest.

In the fall of 1999, Corliss brought home Bretagne, a wriggly 8-week-old puppy who had much to learn and wanted to learn it.

“I was so excited about doing this, but I didn’t have the appreciation of how life-changing it would be,” Corliss recalled. “It took 20 to 30 hours a week easily to stay on top of training. This is what I did when I wasn’t at work.”

In 2000, Corliss received news that thrilled her: She and Bretagne qualified as official members of Texas Task Force 1. This meant the pair had what it takes to scour a disaster site and find survivors buried in the rubble.

An exhausted Bretagne takes a break at Ground Zero in September 2001.

Andrea Booher / FEMA News Photo
An exhausted Bretagne takes a break at Ground Zero in September 2001.

What they never could have anticipated was the site of their first deployment: The twisted pile of steel beams, concrete and ash where the World Trade Center once stood. It was a harrowing assignment for the most seasoned rescue workers, and it could be a frustrating one for search dogs because there were no human survivors to be found — only human remains.

“I really believed we could find somebody — anybody! — if we could just get to the right void space,” Corliss said. “But our reality was much different. We found all various kinds of remains, some recognizable, others not so much.”

Bretagne persevered through nearly two weeks of 12-hour shifts at Ground Zero. On her very first search, she had to balance precariously on a wet metal beam — and she slipped. But she recovered quickly, pulling herself back up onto the beam with her front paws and continuing to sniff intently as if nothing had happened.

Bretagne and Denise Corliss take a quick nap amid the rubble of the World Trade Center in 2001.

Courtesy of Denise Corliss
Bretagne and Denise Corliss take a quick nap amid the rubble of the World Trade Center in 2001.

Even though she had just turned 2 — an age when many canines relish romping, chewing and making mischief — Bretagne kept offering herself up to grim-faced first responders. On one occasion, Bretagne left Corliss’ side with urgency and hurried toward a sullen firefighter sitting on the ground. Concerned, Corliss implored Bretagne to come back, sit and stay — to no avail.

“I was surprised that she wasn’t listening to me, but she really wasn’t — it was like she was flipping me the paw,” Corliss said. “She went right to that firefighter and laid down next to him and put her head on his lap.”

Denise Corliss and Bretagne the search dog at Ground Zero in 2001.

Courtesy of Denise Corliss
Denise Corliss and Bretagne take a break together at Ground Zero in 2001.

Dr. Cindy Otto, a veterinarian who cared for 9/11 search dogs at Ground Zero, said the 300 or so dogs who worked the pile brought much more to the job than their capable noses.

“You’d see firefighters sitting there, unanimated, stone-faced, no emotion, and then they’d see a dog and break out into a smile,” Otto recalled. “Those dogs brought the power of hope. They removed the gloom for just an instant — and that was huge because it was a pretty dismal place to be.”

Dog handler Roseann DeLuca and her dog Logan, a female German shepherd who searched the pile at Ground Zero after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Courtesy of Dr. Cindy Otto
Dog handler Roseann DeLuca is pictured with her dog Logan, a female German shepherd who searched the pile at Ground Zero. Veterinarian Cindy Otto loves the smiles on the workers’ faces in the presence of the dog.

Otto spent years tracking the health of dozens of 9/11 working dogs after the terrorist attacks. Among her favorite findings: Search and rescue dogs tend to live longer than other dogs.

“They have a bond with their handlers, they have purpose, they have physical fitness — it’s all really good for the dog and for the person who does this work,” Otto said. “Even on terrible assignments when they’re finding remains instead of survivors — can you imagine the closure they provided for families?”

Bretagne swimming in a pool in her backyard in Texas.

Courtesy of Denise Corliss
Denise Corliss installed a pool in her backyard to help her aging dog Bretagne maintain mobility by swimming daily.

Her work with the 9/11 dogs inspired Otto to launch the Penn Vet Working Dog Center at the University of Pennsylvania on Sept. 11, 2012. Through the center, dogs like Bretagne and Morgan — the last two surviving search dogs from 9/11 still participating in Otto’s health study — continue to be monitored, and puppies get trained to sniff out everything from explosives to narcotics to diseases to live humans buried in rubble.

As a tribute, the puppies in training at the Working Dog Center all get named after 9/11 dogs. Bretagne’s namesake, dubbed “Bretagne 2,” recently moved in with a man who has Type 1 diabetes. She paws at his leg to alert him when his blood-sugar levels are out of normal range and he needs to eat.

“That makes me so proud!” Corliss said. “I’m so humbled that they would find Bretagne worthy to have a puppy named after her who’s carrying on the tradition of the working dog.”

Dogs Bretagne 1 and Bretagne 2 together

Courtesy of Penn Vet Working Dog Center
Bretagne got to meet her namesake, Bretagne 2, at the Penn Vet Working Dog Center on Sept. 11, 2012.

In the years that followed 9/11, Bretagne and Corliss deployed together to numerous disaster sites, including Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Rita and Hurricane Ivan. Bretagne retired from formal search work at age 9 — but today, even though she’s roughly 93 in human years, she still loves to work. When school’s in session, she dons a service vest and prances purposefully through a local elementary school, where she helps first-graders and children with special needs learn how to read out loud.

“She still has this attitude of putting her paw up and saying, ‘Put me in, coach!’” Corliss said. “She absolutely loves it.”

Bretagne helps kids read at school

Courtesy of Denise Corliss
Bretagne helps students practice reading out loud at an elementary school in Texas.

And just as she did for that firefighter and other rescue workers at Ground Zero, she tends to sense which students and teachers are having rough days.

“I’ve seen Bretagne almost select a child,” said Shelley Swedlaw, a search dog handler and a former special education director who accompanies Bretagne to reading sessions. “She’s just really good about knowing who needs that kind, canine attention.”

Bretagne the dog helping kids read at school

Courtesy of Denise Corliss
Many children feel comfortable reading aloud to a friendly, supportive dog.

At disaster sites, Bretagne’s presence always helped Corliss feel like she had “a secret advantage”: “I had my best friend sitting alongside me,” she said. This, in turn, helped Corliss learn important lessons from response work.

“Deployments put things back into perspective very quickly,” she said. “Every time I go on one, things that seemed to be really important before I left become less so.

“What do you think people are thinking about just before? It’s probably not work. They’re thinking about family. They’re thinking about love.”

This article was originally published on Sept. 10, 2014 at 5:03pm. 

Online voting for the Hero Dog Awards continues through Sept. 15.

 The 2014 American Hero Dog will be announced on Sept. 27 and broadcast on the Hallmark Channel on Oct. 30.