Local FEMA K-9 units demonstrate search and rescue missions

BEDFORD, Va. (WDBJ7) — When natural disasters strike, FEMA sends in reinforcements from all over the country, just like ones in our Hometowns.

Dogs that are a part of FEMA’s K-9 run through collapsed buildings among other damaged areas in times of disaster, looking for victims.

“Their job is to actually locate people they can smell but not see, located in the rubble.”, says Karen Meadows of the FEMA Urban Search and Rescue.

The dogs prepare for situations like their most recent deployment to hurricane victims in Puerto Rico.

“My first disaster was the Oklahoma City bombing, several hurricanes, some flooding, Hurricane Sandy. I went to the Pentagon for 9/11. I went to Haiti after the earthquake.”, said Lisa Berry of the FEMA Urban Search and Rescue.

To be ready to respond, the K-9 unit volunteers to meet three times a month.

“Your victims train your dogs. If you don’t have good victims that can reward at the right time and be willing to come out, get wet, or be cold, you can’t train your dog by yourself. It takes a village to train a dog to do that.”, Berry said.

This team believes their four-legged friends are essential to the mission and saving lives.

“They can smell so much faster than we can put together cameras and people to try to go and locate. They use their hunting sense, their prey drive and hunt drive to go out and find the scent that they can smell but not.”, Meadows added.

And it’s that ability that is becoming muscle memory for these canine.


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