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Puppies to the rescue
A combined training exercise with Dandenong Fire Station B Platoon and SARDA (Search and Rescue Dogs Australia) has been held at the old Dandenong Fire Station.
Story by Jason Halls
The day was witness to an impressive collaboration of both SARDA members and the staff and volunteers from Dandenong fire station. Also invited was Labor M.P. Harriett Shing who was given first hand exposure on the capabilities of both services and how impressive and rapid an outcome can be utilising SARDA.
The exercise was held at the old Dandenong Fire station on Sunday November 13 and saw 4 separate training drills.
The drills conducted were a high angle roping exercise that saw handler and canine flown to the top of the training tower with the Dandenong ladder platform, with the handler and canine abseiling back down to ground from a height of about 20m. There was a horizontal ladder drill where the canine was required to walk across 25m of elevated horizontal ladders of varied widths.
There were also two search and rescue drills that were set up. One consisted of a standard search over two floors, level one being smoke logged with visibility down to 1.5m. Handlers and canines were required to search and locate up to 12 victims over the two floors. Our victims consisted of staff and volunteers from Dandenong who concealed themselves within cupboards, holes in the floor, behind walls and anywhere else that created a technical search for the teams.
With smoke detectors sounding, various other noises and distractions, and dog treats placed around the search site, the canines ignored the ‘walking wounded’ and observers and honed in on the human breath scent trails that led to the successful locations of our trapped victims.
The other search drill required a separated search. This occurred on the top floor of the building and the handler was not allowed up the stairs, this search was to be completed only by the search dog. In an impressive display, having one member hidden underneath the floor in a 300mm cavity, some of the dogs completed this task in under a minute, out of sight and without direction from their handler.
The B Platoon Dandenong/SARDA partnership was developed about two years ago by Leading Fire Fighter Jason Halls and SARDA’s Julie Cowan and is going from strength to strength with the training bar ever raising. We train together a few times a year in a practical sense with handler and canine and are about to structure some theoretical lessons for the handlers to develop and improve their knowledge and understanding of our structural searching techniques, size-up and other components of how CFA perform operationally.
The partnership also allows members of CFA to gain a greater understanding of the capability and capacity of SARDA. With this inter-agency collaboration both services gain a greater insight into each other’s abilities and techniques and, allow for an easier operation should we be responded to the same incident.
Photos by Alison Winter and Keith Pakenham
Video from 2015 training