FEMA Certification

rosietarptubeIn order to assure that disaster search dog teams deployed with the Federal Emergency Management Agency are highly qualified to perform their job, FEMA has established two levels of evaluation and certification. All FEMA-certified dogs are required to retest every two years to maintain their certification level and deployability status.

rickycrawlAt NDSD, one of our primary tasks is to certify our dogs at the basic and advanced levels, in order to provide qualified dog teams for FEMA Washington Task Force One (and also to be assured that our dogs are highly capable in case of local deployment with our county and state emergency management agencies). Although our handlers are not required to join the Task Force after certification, almost all choose to do so. As members of the Task Force, dog teams are deployable to any disaster incident on US soil.

The evaluation for the Fundamental Skills Assessment (FSA) consists of:

  • Testing for lack of aggression toward dogs and humans
  • Obedience testing
  • Directability testing over a baseball diamond course, where the dog is sent out to various locations while the handler remains stationary
  • Agility testing over an obstacle course
  • Thirty-second focused bark alert off the rubble
  • Rubble search for two hiders in 15 minutes, in a pile with an area of 3500-5000 sq.ft.
  • Evaluation of the handler’s skills in briefing and debriefing, safety assessment, canine health assessment, and search strategy.

The evaluation for the Certification Evaluation (CE) consists of:

  • Rubble search on two separate piles with a total of 4-6 hiders

    • Each pile has different restrictions for handler access to the pile, to evaluate the dog’s ability to work away from the handler
    • Each pile has between 0-4 hiders (the exact number is unknown to the testing team) and has a surface area of 6000-15,000 sq ft
    • Distractions, such as noise, food, clothing, and other animals, are present on one or more piles
    • Twenty minutes is allowed for search of each pile
  • Evaluation of the handler’s skills in briefing and debriefing, safety assessment, canine health assessment, search strategy and mapping/marking of the site.


For more information on FEMA’s evaluation process, go to: