Training the Handler

All NDSD personnel (handlers and support) are proficient in the following areas:

  • Basic first aid, CPR, use of automatic external defibrillators, and bloodborne pathogen awareness
  • Land navigation
  • Helicopter operations for SAR
  • Crime scene consideration for SAR
  • SAR survival and techniques


Many of our personnel are also trained in search management, ham radio operations and advanced first aid and CPR. On their own time, our dog handlers attend various training seminars and courses throughout the country, in order to continuously improve their skills.

All handlers associated with FEMA’s Washington Task Force One attend 40 hours of Canine Search Specialist Training with their dogs, including mission preparedness, search operations, canine first aid, scent theory and dog training/behavior theory. Task Force handlers also complete a 40-hour course on rescue techniques and operations, and pass a Task Force fitness evaluation that includes various tests of strength and agility.

dickaframeAlong with training our dogs, we are constantly training and challenging each other during our group sessions. Whether setting up a search problem that challenges the handler to think “outside the box”, working together to set up a rope and harness system to raise a dog to a third-story window, or helping to overcome a dog’s fear of heights, experienced handlers and support personnel mentor and guide newer handlers through the ups and downs of learning to work their dogs in a safe and effective manner for disaster search.