The Los Angeles County Fire Department (LACoFD) hosted Canine Disaster Search Teams from throughout the country for the FEMA Canine Certification Exam at the Del Valle Regional Training Center in Castaic over January 20-21, 2018. The highly trained canines and canine handlers must pass the rigorous national certification in order to deploy with their task force teams in search and rescue operations.
Representing LACoFD’s California Task Force 2 (CA-TF2), newly paired Fire Fighter Specialist Robert George and Shadow, a rescued Black Lab mix, passed their certification for the first time. George and Shadow graduated from the Search Dog Foundation’s Handlers Course just one year ago, on January 20, 2017.
“Certification is a test, but now the real training begins,” said LACoFD Fire Captain and Canine Search Coordinator Emmanuel Sampang as he shared about the journey for all handler and canine teams as they prepare for deployments to disasters around the world.
Three search teams achieved new certifications and seven re-certified during the weekend testing directed by Chief Evaluator Teresa MacPherson of Virginia Task Force 1.
According to Sampang, CA-TF2 now has 11 canine and handler certified teams, including the new additions of George and Shadow. Eight of the dogs are used in searching for live victims and 3 are trained in human remains detection. In 2017, CA-TF2 deployed canines and their handlers to Mexico City, Puerto Rico, and most recently to the Montecito mudslides.