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May 17, 2001

Victoria Kushnir

NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA

Phone: 650/604-0176 or 650/604-9000,

NOTE TO EDITORS AND NEWS DIRECTORS: News media are invited to observe the evaluation of canine teams that search for people trapped in collapsed buildings after natural or man-made disasters. Reporters can see the dogs being tested for certification on May 20, 2001 from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. PDT at the Zanker Road landfill, San José, CA. To obtain details of the testing schedule, please contact Lynne Engelbert at (650) 604-3112.



Four-footed search experts will be put through their paces this Sunday, May 20, 2001, as they crawl through tunnels and balance on precarious wooden structures as part of an arduous testing process.

Canine search specialists, including those with NASA’s Disaster Assistance and Rescue Team (DART), will evaluate eight dog teams from California, Arizona and Pennsylvania. They will determine if the teams meet Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) standards for urban search and rescue task forces.

"In the event of a major disaster, the need for specially trained search teams becomes tragically apparent. An important ‘tool’ in the task force equipment cache is the disaster search dog," said California Office of Emergency Services search specialist Lynne Engelbert of NASA’s Ames Research Center. "Because the rescue of a victim may take many hours, it is vitally important that the search team be as accurate as possible in determining the location of a victim."

There are about 90 dog teams in the entire United States. To participate in a rescue mission, the dogs must meet certain standards and earn certification. "To be deployable, search dogs must be able to work off-leash, learn to negotiate ladders, teeter-totters and elevated planks and be willing to crawl through small, dark tunnels," said Engelbert. "The handler must be able to direct the dog through a ‘baseball diamond’ course in a maximum of 3 minutes. The dogs must indicate a live victim by barking for a minimum of 30 seconds," she added.

NASA’s DART is part of California Task Force 3 (CA TF3), one of 28 FEMA urban search and rescue teams. The team’s dogs participated in both the Northridge earthquake rescue mission and the search for victims in the Murrah Federal Building after the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. Now, CA TF3 and DART are helping to certify new dogs that will be used for future search and rescue tasks.

"These amazing animals must be healthy, energetic, high-drive dogs who can cope with the stress and possess the ability to work in very difficult conditions. Hopefully, we will have a few new teams after Sunday’s test," said Engelbert.


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