NE-TF1 hosts disaster K-9 workshop

LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - On Sunday, k-9 handlers from all over the country were in Lincoln for a disaster workshop hosted by Nebraska Task Force One.

18 Dogs from all over the country came to Lincoln with their handlers on Sunday for NE-TF1's disaster training exercise. (Source: KOLN)

The workshop allowed the handlers from 13 different states to expose their dogs to a variety of search problems.

It's designed to strengthen deployment ready k-9 teams so they are ready to go in any disaster situation.

"Our dogs are trained to use their nose and not their eyes. They are trying to find the scent they can smell, but cannot see,” said Superfit Canine Owner, Eric Darling.

The dogs are timed as they go through the disaster exercise and try to locate staged victims who are scattered throughout the rubble.

"We don't know what kind of disaster we're going to go into tomorrow or the next day or the next day, so we try to get them acclimated to different scenarios all over the country,” said NE-TF1 K-9 Handler, Damon Wirth.

When the dogs identify the scent of a live human, they alert their handlers.

Wirth says the workshop actually tests the handlers more than the dogs because when victims are close together, their handler may think the dog is only alerting to one person.

"If the dog is indicating that someone is down there and they could be two feet apart, it could be a different person,” said Wirth.

In this training exercise, they make sure to keep the elements and the number of victims a surprise to make sure the teams are ready for whatever comes their way.

"They are always on their toes and the handlers are always on their toes, waiting, anticipating their next mission,” said Darling.

Although the dogs on Sunday were only looking for live victims, Darling says in a rescue situation they make sure to rescue everyone.

"In disasters, no matter what everybody comes home. And that's what we do our workshops for, because no matter what everybody comes home,” said Darling.