An international standard for search-and-rescue dogs

Published:  19 May, 2015

ASTM International has established a common standard that would enable the evaluation of different organisations’ certifications.

The proposed standard will provide a common way to test and certify a certain kind of search-and-rescue dogs (trailing dogs), to find missing people. The proposed standard (WK44540, Guide for Evaluating Trailing Search Dog Crews or Teams) will identify the expected minimal performance capabilities of a trailing team certification.

The standard defines the knowledge, skills, and abilities required for a dog crew or team to perform a trailing search. Trailing search dog crews or teams perform searches on the surface of the land, including open urban or wilderness areas, as well as mountainous terrain and alpine environments. The standard does not include the knowledge, skills, and abilities required to search in partially or fully collapsed structures, confined spaces, or on bodies of water, inland or oceanic. However, trailing search dog crews or teams trained to meet the requirements of the standard may operate in urban and disaster areas that may be isolated or have lost their infrastructure.

Many training organisations have developed their own tests, making it difficult to compare certifications for equivalency. Developing a common standard allows organizations to easily evaluate each other’s certifications, empowering search managers to most effectively use the teams arriving on the scene to help.

“The search for a lost or missing individual is commonly viewed as an emergency— the person being sought may be injured or suffering from a medical emergency,” says ASTM member Lee Lang, a seasonal National Park protection ranger. “Search managers need to be able to rapidly deploy resources, such as a trailing dog, and be confident that dogs can perform at a minimal expected performance level.”

All interested parties are welcomed to join in the standards developing activities of Committee F32 on Search and Rescue.

Committee F32 will next meet November 8-9, 2015 in conjunction with the International Tech Rescue Symposium, Portland, Oregon, US.

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