It was nice to be back in Australia again
and once again we had a variety of s cenarios and areas to work in including some very impressive quarry workings, schools,fire
stations etc etc each one with its own unique problems and as usual when someone says you can,t hide anyone in here we proved
them wrong thanks to the guys who are willing to give up their time and lie in the craziest places without a complaint.
Again the two weeks went past far too quickly with a lot of the emphasis put
on the dogs locating on the breath of the hidden person conveyed to areas sometimes a fair distance from the actual victims
thanks to their strong lungs and a nice hose pipe The idea was to learn the dogs to focus on a small spot rather than an alert
on a large area and it worked a treat with all the dogs working well and of course a visit to my favourite The Temple of Doom
The standards are high as usual and they are a credit to their organisation
and their own dedication and stubborness
Well done everyone
The intention for this visit to Victoria once again
was a change of emphasis from area search into a emergency search role
in the realms of disaster scenarios.
After a few warm up sessions at known places like the
crib point refinery, a new quarry etc to see how well the teams were performing and it was
really pleasing to see the
dogs were at an excellent standard of searching, we then headed for the SES training site where the teams were really to be
put through their paces starting with a multiple car crash (30 vehicles) which the dogs had to check for victims as quickly
and as safely as possible.
Next was a train wreck which again produced new problems for the teams, followed by a USAR disaster site which was
completed efficiently by the dogs again. Lots of learning points were arriving constantly for the handlers and support teams
but the dogs took it all in their stride. The final discipline was named appropriately The Temple of Doom and it proved an
extremely difficult technical challenge but through it all the dogs kept working to their usual high standard.
At the debrief Miles had lots
of pointers for the teams and we then set off for the next part of the course to practice the teamwork skills needed to keep
the unit at the forefront of USAR Dog Rescue.
The next few days were spent training at the Tru Energy power station and it was a truly amazing
place to be allowed to train in with 15 floors all of iron grid floors and full of working machinery and steam which allied
to the heat from the stacks as they burned the coal made for a frightening working environment especially as the noise levels
meant that conversation was mostly non existent and communication was usually by signals or shouts.
Whilst all of this was awe inspiring to the
humans it must have been even more so to the dogs.
After a guided tour of all the floors I found certain areas where we could acclimatise the dogs
to new skills such as walking on grids that you could see down through , in some cases for ten or twelve floors, climbing
up narrow metal stairs between floors, getting used to extreme sound levels and heat, steam etc.
Once the training in these new obstacles
was completed by both the dogs and the human members then we hid some potential victims and went to work.
It was interesting to see how the dogs settled
into the new environment so quickly and also the new discipline of working close to the handler and helper who had the unenviable
job of trying to map everything and make sure each part of the area was searched and then relay the information to the control
first searches were very difficult but as time went on each floor got faster and faster and when we went back later to the
initial ground floor it was completed in less than half the time.
It was a very hard four days with lots of very precise work needed by all the
team members and it was very noticeable that everyone really tried extremely hard with their roles and at the end of it the
whole unit was working at a very high USAR Level and more importantly no victim was left behind no matter whether they were
hidden amongst steam or under fork lift ramps or up on machinery that roaored and belched steam and sometimes flames at regular
was a great time and thanks must go to Mark for organising things and giving us so much freedom of use of the facility.
Next stop was at the Royal
Melbourne Hospital where we were given the use of the partially disused old mental hospital which was a fascinating victorian
type building and still had lots of old beds etc and equipment making it a great fun day and also it provided some very difficult
searches via the network of pipes and ducting carrying scent and depositing it in strange places but the dogs won through
and everyone had a really enjoyable day.
The last day was back at Crib Point Refinery and after the previous hiding places up trees , in
buildings etc I decided to try for one last test and with Pat's help I used a ladder to get me up to the staircase which
wound up one of the huge water tanks and had been cut off at the bottom to prevent people going up to the top!! Once up on
top looking out over the bay and the submarine I had a perfect view of both dogs and handkers as they searched finding Pat
hiding in the trees and then working steadily through the area. I was curious as I knew that most of my scent was heading
way ou into the bay and I even wondered if it was possible that I could be found from the ground but eventually the dogs worked
round in evger decreasing circles until they were hunting below my position and then they started looking upward to my position
50 metres above. The language from the handlers was quite choice when I was spotted but it proved to me
that these dogs were up to any task.
I have trained people and dogs in various countries and seen dogs working in many more and I can honestly
say that the teams of SARDA are as good as any I have had the pleasure to work with and the spirit with which they all accepted
the exacting standards that I set for them was excellent.