Search dogs train in Chch rubble
Sun, 26 Aug 2012 6:29p.m.
By Dave Goosselink
One of Christchurch’s active demolition sites has gone to the dogs.
Specialised canines from Urban Search and Rescue spent the day trying to locate people hidden in the rubble of the former Orion building.
It's a "real world" exercise for the search dogs, with Christchurch's mountainous demolition sites proving perfect conditions to train USAR's team of canines.
“Massive columns, steel – there's a lot of drama,” says Bill Johnson of Ceres Environmental. “It's very similar to what the dogs might face in real life, so they felt like this would be a good location for them.”
The dogs are critical in finding people trapped in buildings or under rubble, completing more than 80 searches following the February quake.
“It's just the type of dogs they are,” says Tim Drennan of the New Zealand USAR Search Dog Association. “They're all based around working breeds and we select them because they are so highly driven.”
Their volunteer handlers train them twice a week, preparing for the challenging conditions of a real search.
The dogs are trained to sniff out tiny skin cells floating in the air, and can quickly differentiate between people working on a site and those who may be trapped underneath.
Technicians from the Fire Service were also using the site as a training ground, testing their specialised search cameras and listening devices.
But the dogs are often the quickest way of locating buried victims.
“A site of this size would take a line and hail search about an hour, at least, to two hours, maybe, to search it bit by bit, where a dog can clear that in five minutes,” says dog trainer Brenda Woolley.
Eight of New Zealand's search dog teams are based in Christchurch, with USAR keen to recruit more handlers across the country.
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