Pet dogs can be trained for search and rescue operations – MMDA
MANILA, Philippines – In the wake of destruction and natural calamities, how do you respond to thousands of people who will be in need of assistance? This is a question that Ramon Santiago, Secretariat Head of the Metro Manila Shake Drill, continiously tries to find answers to.
While traditional responses, such as the use of equipment, is carried out widely, Santiago said a commonly overlooked resource in disaster response is dogs.
“When we started doing some organization and disaster preparedness, we always look at the outside source of instruments and equipment so that we can save people. But what we have overlooked is that dogs are very good searchers; a lot better than humans.”
An idea that started in 2012, Santiago called on public to volunteer their dogs for the Metro Manila Development Authority’s (MMDA) K9 search and rescue (SAR) team during the first day of the Agos Summit on Disaster Preparedeness.
Santiago said the MMDA’s target would be to have trained dogs in each of the metro’s major quadrants mapped out by the MMDA. Further in the future would be to have trained dogs in majority of barangays.
He also explained the volunteer K9 SAR team complemented other efforts carried out by the MMDA.
“Makakatulong siya eh. Hindi 100% pero mapapbilis yung trabaho namin kaysa yung mga other training namin,” said Santiago.
(It helps. It may not be 100% full proof but it speeds up the work compared to our other trainings)
Nevertheless, it is an effort that has brought results.
Santiago shared that 2 trained dogs were present in search and rescue operations after the Bohol quake and were able to find 3 bodies missed by human efforts.
“When we search for trapped people, you shout and shout until you hear a response or there’s tapping so we're just trying to complement that with either expensive tools or another tool which is really the nose of the dog,” said Santiago.
Santiago also said that even pet dogs could be trained regardless of their breed."Dogs can be taught. One thing I could assure you is dogs, regardless of breeds, you can teach them how to find things using their nose."
Dogs are trained in 4 key areas of response: tracking, trailing, air scenting, and scent discrimination.
He likewise added that training dogs is much cheaper compared to the use of equipment, which can cost up to millions and remains sparse around the metro.
“We’ll buy gadgets so that if there are collapsed structures, we have tools. But these are expensive tools. Right now, there are barely a hundred of these tools combined in Metro Manila and it costs about P5 million,” Santiago said in a mix of English and Filipino.
In addition to high costs, Santiago said such equipment needed to be charged and was dependent on power, which in the case of natural disasters, is a resource that is not only unreliable but also possibly unavailable.
“(The equipment is also) dependent on power so if there is no power, we are not able to charge them. If you want to charge them, you have to buy another device,” he said.
“Halos lahat din may limitations. Yung mga equipment, meron din... (Almost everything has its limitations. Even our equipment has limits…) but when we're faced with scenarios like this (natural disasters) is, everyone is welcome.” said Santiago.
Loriet Visto, a core member of the MMDA K9 Corps team, said dog-owners can volunteer their pets in MMDA's volunteer K9 training program by searching the MMDA K9 Corps Facebook page and filing out the online registration from found on the group's page.
The Agos Summit on Disaster Preparedness brings together key stakeholders to tackle key issues and share best practices, which aim to achieve a zero casualty outcome in response to natural calamities.
The summit is organized by MovePH, Rappler’s civic engagement arm, and will run until Saturday, July 8. – Rappler.com