Last Killer Nashville Post–Search and Rescue

The last panel of Killer Nashville wrapped up with The SARTEC K-9 Unit. Amazing experience to hear these people speak and meet their partners (who are also their personal pets).

Some highlights from the panel:

  • Their dogs are trained to find people–alive or dead and will ignore deers and snakes
  • The search coordinator works with the dogs and their handlers and oversees the group
  • Dogs have an incredible sense of smell. Human beings stink to them.
  • It is hard to scent block, you would need to overload the senses of the dog.
  • If you bathe, you may kill the scent on you, but a dog can still find you pretty fast.
  • The process for a K-9 unit being brought in: 1) The police or fire department must call the unit in after they have been on the scene. 2) The coordinator puts out calls and emails to see which volunteers can help. Based on the specific problem (cadaver search vs. living person or water vs. air scent), the dogs will be assigned to the scene. 3) The coordinator will liase with the PD/ fire dept/rescue squad and fills the unit in on what they need to do. 4) If the search is long going, the owner will rehab the dog.
  • There is no one breed that is best for this, but long noses generally have the best sense of smell. Pugs however can’t smell as well because of their short nose.
  • Bloodhounds are great at tracking and trailing where someone has been. (Have 10,000x better sense of smell than shepherd)
  • Shepherds are good at figuring out where the person is now. (Have 10,000 x better sense of smell than human)
  • The longest a dog can stay in the field is 12 hours.
  • Dogs sweat via the pads on their feet  and their tongue–handlers must beware of hot pavement.
  • When it’s hot, scent gets light and rises, when it’s cold out the scent stays toward the ground
  • A cadaver trained dog will dig up a grave–any grave–once found a Civil War grave at a State Park.
  • Searches are sometimes scent specific, meaning that the dog is given the odor via a piece of clothing. But if the item was worn by another it can confuse the dog because the item may have multiple scents.
  • Best thing to give a searcher is a pillow case–very specific to that person
  • All handlers and dogs need to rehab. They go back to base where they interview with the incident man sit & eat, drink water, and are watched for dehydration. Only then can they go on the next call. Rehab generally lasts 2-4 hours.
  • Cigarette smoke can kill a dog’s sense of smell for an hour.
  • If a child is relocated into a car and taken away, cars are not airtight so the scent will come out of the car as it is driven away.

They also gave us a demonstration of what a dog does during a search by having a person hide in the room and bringing the dog in to find her. It took the dog less than a minute and she sat and barked beside the hiding person. Very cool.

These people really knew their stuff and were very generous to share their time and expertise with us. What a wonderful way to end the conference!

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2 Responses to Last Killer Nashville Post–Search and Rescue

  1. Loren Chase says:

    I never knew a dog could still catch onto the scent of a child driving away in a car! That amazes me. I wish our sense of smell was as heightened as a dogs; well, maybe not around skunks… 🙂

    • Yeah, they mentioned that years ago cars were sealed airtight but when they went off bridges people couldn’t get out. Now cars are specifically made to not be airtight and so scent sneaks out. It must be really hard to smell all that though. I’d never be able to sit at my desk all day. 🙂

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