~ The Cost of Search And Rescue ~

See that guy with the clipboard?  Yeah, the one looking harassed and concerned.  That’s My Captain.  The love of my life.  Usually I am the one that puts that look on his face.  But this picture was taken during his deployment, as Rescue Manager with Maryland Task Force 1, to New Jersey and New York for Hurricane Sandy.


During this particular deployment, a few of the rescuers on his team suffered injuries.   It was easy to get injured at some of the places they went!


And, in fact, at least one of the injured is still recovering…he has not been able to work at all since Hurricane Sandy.


Fonzie is his name, and his story is in the post entitled Search and Rescue.  This is the sequel post!

If you can recall, Fonzie severely injured his foot and leg in that deployment.  This is a huge problem for a Search and Rescue dog.  They need to be nimble.  They need to be agile.  They need to be able to scramble, for heaven’s sake!  Otherwise they simply can’t do their job.  And their job plays a pivotal role in any search and rescue.

Why?  What is the big deal?  Why not just send in humans?

See this rubble pile at the Oklahoma City bombing?


This is a nasty rubble pile.  This was one of the first major responses for FEMA’s newly created National Urban Search and Rescue system.  And My Captain was there.


FEMA did not originally create the Task Forces to deal with terrorism related rescue.  They were, in fact, initially designed to respond to earthquakes and floods and hurricanes.  No one had envisioned ever needing to respond to terrorism here in the country.


But respond they did….with their rescue dogs…because they knew they couldn’t easily send men and women up these piles fast enough or efficiently enough when looking for viable victims.

They sent the dogs because they knew that the weight of human bodies might shift the rubble pile, potentially further endangering a viable victim, not to mention injuring the rescuers.

They knew and respected the fact that humans don’t have a dog’s excellent ability to sniff out life……or death.   (Yes, there are dogs that are trained to smell cadavers.)  Those amazing snouts are the perfect rescuing tool….so dogs became essential in FEMA search and rescue efforts.

Fast forward to September 11th, 2001.  Here the Task Forces again used dogs…both live-find and cadaver trained.


They were needed in the mess that was the Pentagon and also at Ground Zero.


My Captain was deployed to the Pentagon as the Task Force Leader for Maryland’s team.


There he is sporting a spanky, new safety vest as he gives the briefing for that day’s Pentagon rescue plan for Maryland’s Task Force.

The Search and Rescue Teams deployed to the Pentagon that day were greeted with an unholy mess and the daunting task of trying to find life in a still burning, jet-fuel puddled, fume laden, unstable mire of twisted steel and stone.


And they had to do it not so much on a rubble pile mountain like at the Oklahoma City Bombing, but rather within more of a confined space kind of rubble pile.  Look at the column on the right…it doesn’t look too stable does it?  Because it is not.  It is very, Very, VERY dangerous.


The dogs went in and began the search, while the Structural Engineers on the Task Force began designing the stabilization plan.


And stabilize, they did!


I’m not kidding when I call it an unholy mess.  But the dogs, the engineers,


and rescuers wasted no time getting down to business.  If life was there, they were going to find it.


Shoring up, sifting through, searching, searching, relentlessly searching……

Meanwhile up at Ground Zero, the challenge was a gigantic mountain of collapse and rubble rather than confined space collapse and rubble.  My Captain’s brother, a Lieutenant, was on that massive rubble pile with other parts of the Task Force.  (Do you think maybe My Captain’s parents are a tad proud? I sure would be if both of my sons were rescuers.)


But back to the dogs, this Golden Retriever is at Ground Zero actually getting ‘shuttled’ between the stories high mountains of rubble.  These dogs could go where humans could not.  They worked incredibly long hours…. It was exhausting.


Which brings us back to Fonzie.


Fonzie is a trained ‘live-find’ rescue dog… his handler, Victoria, (who is also a firefighter, EMT, wife to the Frederick City Police Chief, and mommy) trained Fonzie to smell live victims and bark like the dickens at them…even if they are buried deep within  the rubble.


They train and train and train, waiting for the next deployment.

As I mentioned in the beginning of this post, at the deployment to Hurricane Sandy, Fonzie got his foot stuck under a steel door.  As he thrashed about violently to get free, he severed important tissue and nerves in the toe.  He also managed to do damage to his rotator cuff, and other important parts of his leg.  He’s a mess, that pooch.

Understand that this is a dog who has been invested in heavily…HEAVILY…financially and temporally.   Oodles of time and money and training went into him..this is not a dog you just shrug off and say, “Next!” about.


Victoria has had the daunting task of trying to rehab Fonzie to the point where he can work again.  He’s gone through intense physical therapy, ultrasound therapy, water therapy…you name it.


And she is adamant that he wants to work. “Work = Happy” where Fonzie is concerned!  The dog wants to rescue!  Look at him.  It’s as if he’s saying, “All right!  All right!  Let me go already!  I can do this!  Let me WORK!”

But unfortunately, we just don’t know when that could happen.  He’s got a future full of more rehab, possibly more rather invasive surgery, and a lot of time before he can be back on a rubble pile.

And in this day and age, we certainly need him.

Heal fast, Fonzie!

Categories: Fire and Rescue, Urban Search and Rescue | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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5 thoughts on “~ The Cost of Search And Rescue ~

  1. I came here from a link Tails and Tales shared on Facebook, and I’m very glad that I did!

    While I’m personally not disposed for SAR, law enforcement, medicine, etc. I have a lot of respect and admiration for the people who are, and who do. And I love reading about dogs working, be it sheep, or protection, or Search and Rescue.

    I do hope Fonzie gets better soon, and well enough to WORK! Such a great dog (and his person sounds pretty neat too!)

  2. This is great and honest.

  3. Pingback: ~ I Know It, and He Knows It ~ | Mama Boe

  4. K

    My dog Finn, damaged his rotator cuff on a mission in the Blue Ridge Mountains, when he was 7 years old. He was completely healed with rehab. 3 months later he injured his opposite shoulder, and again successfully went through rehab. He was sound enough and healthy enough at 9 years old to deploy to the jungles of Guyana, South America.

    My guy spent three weeks at an inpatient rehab center each time. I knew that I didn’t have the capability to help him at home. And that I might actually hinder his rehab by letting him do things he shouldn’t at home.

  5. Anonymous

    Hope he heals 100%

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