The disaster class is on hold for 2013 until enrollments come in!

If you are interested in seeing this class go forward please call Barbara Holley, 901-857-7385 and speak with her directly.

A minimum number of 12 is required for this class. Please register early if you are interested so that instructors can be lined up. 

The urban search and rescue/recovery class is designed to provide search dog handlers with basic skills required for response to local disaster SAR scenes. The class will focus on obedience, agility and directional skills, as well as developing search techniques specifically for disaster scenes. This curriculum is based on the FEMA FSA test.


Because only so much progress can be expected in a week’s time, emphasis will be placed on giving handlers the skills to continue their training after the seminar. Teams will focus on either live-find or cadaver search (not both). Because this type of training is based on building skills from a foundational level up, certain perquisites will be required. 


Handlers will be encouraged to shadow/observe other teams working; this is an invaluable opportunity to learn as much as possible during the week.  Class size will be limited to fifteen dog/handler teams so as to give a 1:5 instructor/student ratio.   Only one dog per handler will be allowed so that progress during the week can be maximized.


All handlers must have basic control of their K-9’s, and no unprovoked aggression (toward dogs or humans) of any kind will be tolerated.  Any dog showing such aggression or other uncontrolled, disruptive behavior will be asked to leave the class. 

Reward system- Each dog will be expected to have an effective reward system in place before attending the class.  Reward may consist of toys or food, but should be highly motivating to the dog so as to overcome distractions/anxiety.

Live-find- must have basic training in searching for live targets in either wilderness or urban environments.  Ability to speak on command is helpful as a bark/scratch alert will be utilized for live-find disaster; handlers should try to work on this skill before coming to the seminar if possible.  This will help maximize the progress that teams can make during the week.  Please send a synopsis  of your training experience/certifications with registration form.


Cadaver- must have a trained indication (sit, down, scratch, etc.) on, and commitment to cadaver sources, and basic training in searching for cadaver sources in either wilderness or urban environments.  Please send a synopsis of your training experience/certifications with registration form.


Skills - K-9’s will be worked at whatever level they are currently at, and will progress as rapidly as they can comfortably handle.

Temperament assessment All dogs will be assessed for basic temperament/aggression on the first day.  K-9’s on disaster scenes are undergoing extremely stressful conditions and are often working in close proximity to other K-9’s and search/rescue workers.  No aggressive tendencies can be tolerated

Obedience-  basic obedience such as heeling, recall and stays will be reviewed, with time spent on teaching an emergency (distance) stop, working recall with distractions, and out-of-sight stays.  Emphasis will be on distance control of the K-9.

Agility-  Teams will be introduced to basic agility such as walking, turning and stopping on a plank, low and/or elevated, introduction to ladder climbing, open and closed tunnels, unsteady surfaces, and maneuvering on different surface types.

Directionals Teams will be introduced to the “baseball diamond” method of teaching distance directional control, utilizing send-out platforms.  This skill is utilized in sending the K-9 to search areas that may be inaccessible to the handler.  Teams that have mastered this skill will work on transferring it to search situations.

Bark alert (live-find)-  Those K-9’s focusing on live-find search will be taught a focused bark/scratch alert on inaccessible targets, utilizing a bark-box and bark tubes.  The goal is to have a 60 second bark that is focused on the area of strongest scent release.  The focused bark/scratch alert is the preferred indication for live-find disaster search; due to safety and efficiency considerations no refinds will be utilized in this class.  Those teams who already have a refind for wilderness work will be shown how to teach a bark alert for inaccessible/buried victims, while still maintaining the refind for wilderness.

Indication (cadaver)-  Those K-9’s focusing on cadaver search will learn to perform their trained indication in disaster-type environments, including unsteady and sloped surfaces, as well as on sources that are completely inaccessible (buried in rubble).

Search strategy-  Teams will be introduced to building/rubble search techniques with emphasis on learning to read your dog in these environments.  K-9’s will gain experience in learning to work out the difficult scent problems that occur in these scenarios (live and cadaver). 

Building/safety assessment-  Handlers will be taught what to look for to determine the relative safety of a disaster scene.  This is awareness-level training only and those teams who wish to become deployable on disaster searches should seek advanced training in this area.

K-9 Decon-  Basic K-9 decontamination procedures will be taught and utilized, including exam/inspection of K-9’s after each search problem and routine decontamination at the end of each day.


All handlers must have minimum personal protective equipment (PPE), including hard hat/helmet, gloves, long-sleeved shirt, and steel-toed boots.  No handlers will be allowed in buildings or on rubble without PPE, and all K-9’s will be worked without any collar, lead or harness in these situations.


Instructors:  To be determined