is an Officer with the Honolulu Police Department. Volunteers don’t need a military background though, just a willingness to devote time and energy. Even if you don’t have a dog, you can volunteer as support personnel to provide first aid, communications and other functions. “Our best support search and rescue specialists are on the Big Island,” says Walden. State Civil Defense provides equipment to the volunteers. The training for dog and handler is extensive, although for support personnel it’s less intense. The volunteers practice training weekly, while support staff meets less often. Once a month largescale training drills occur on O‘ahu where the team has access to two rubble piles where the dogs practice looking for trapped people. The dogs undergo a year of wilderness training and a-year-anda-half to two years of disaster response training. “About eight months old is the ideal age to start a dog at search and rescue,” says Walden. “Two years old is about the limit because it takes a couple years to get certified.” Big Island volunteer Juliet Moncrief started training her two-and-a-half year old dog Hina, when the dog was just eight months. Her older dog Tigger retired about a year ago. “Once they dogs are certified they have to recertify every couple of years,” says Kuma Davis who, like Moncrief, has been involved with the team for several years. Both Moncrief and Davis are certified wilderness search specialists and urban disaster search specialists. Certification is under state urban search and
rescue standards, which are almost identical to FEMA standards. “It takes about 12-18 months to become a certified canine handler,” says Davis. “I’ve always enjoyed working with dogs and this aspect is really amazing,” says Moncrief. “It enables me to give back to the community through my passion, which is working with dogs.” The team welcomes new volunteers. “We’re Hawai‘i County Fire Dept. arson dog, always looking for more Kaimi, and handler Captain Robert people,” says Walden. Perreira working a vehicle fire scene She encourages people – Photo by Robert Perreira interested in joining the program to contact them via their website www.searchandrescuehawaii.org. ❖ Contact writer Denise Laitinen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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