Frequently Asked Questions
There are currently 71 SDF-trained Search Teams located in California, Florida, Nebraska, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Baja California. Thanks to Mutual Aid Agreements between states, these teams can be deployed nationwide wherever disasters occur.
SDF’s ability to deliver highly trained teams at no cost to fire departments is critical as emergency response budgets are cut and resources are strained to the limit. Through our unique public/private partnership, SDF is able to provide a precious, lifesaving resource the fire departments could not otherwise afford.
- Recruit rescued dogs, rather than buying or breeding dogs
- Recruit highly skilled firefighters and other emergency personnel as handlers
- Provide professional, ongoing training for both dog and handler
- Offer these services at no cost to fire departments
- Make a commitment to Lifetime Care for every dog accepted into the program
If you can’t find people, you can’t rescue them. No technology can match a dog’s speed and accuracy in finding people trapped in the wreckage of a disaster, thanks to its:
- Remarkable sense of smell and ability to ignore all other scents and noises—even tempting traces of food or other animals or people involved in the search
- Unparalleled ability to quickly and safely navigate unstable and slippery terrain—a 4-wheel drive on paws!
- Ability to negotiate dangerous surfaces while keeping absolutely focused on the job at hand: saving a life
- Ability to work off-leash and get to places humans cannot safely access
How does SDF work with handlers?
As of October 1, 2015, due to a large number of requests and the importance of our mission to strengthen disaster response in America, SDF has put a temporary moratorium on adding new Task Forces to our current wait list for canines. We expect that this is a temporary hold that will enable us to catch up on the long list of Task Forces we have now awaiting dogs, and that we will be able to welcome new groups at a later date. We apologize for any inconvenience. Please feel free to check back with us in the future.
If you are an individual seeking information on joining a Task Force, please visit www.disasterdog.org to locate the FEMA Task Force nearest you.
- Highly skilled search dogs trained by one of the nation’s top canine instructors
- A proven program of training for the canine-firefighter team leading to DHS/FEMA Advanced Certification
- Ongoing support to the team throughout the working life of the dog.
Thanks to SDF’s unique program, which pairs a professionally trained dog with a first responder, new search teams are certifying faster than ever as our process continues to evolve! Our goal is that each team achieve certification within eighteen months of being partnered, but for a couple of years now we have been celebrating teams as they certify in as little as five months.
For questions related to SDF’s Handler Program, please contact Program Manager Debra Tosch at [email protected].