For Immediate Release
June 02, 2016

New York State Office of Fire Prevention and Control Strengthens Urban Search and Rescue Capabilities with Two New K-9 Teams

Black Lab Keila, and Golden Retriever Charlie, and Handlers Bring Life-Saving Search Skills to New York

The New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services’ (DHSES) Office of Fire Prevention and Control today announced the addition of two new Disaster Search K-9 Teams to strengthen the state’s urban search and rescue capabilities. The two teams join the New York Task Force 2 (NY-TF2) that includes members of state and local emergency response agencies. NY-TF2 provides advanced technical rescue capabilities to incidents involving structural collapse, water rescue, rope rescue, trench rescue and confined space incidents. In life-threatening situations, Disaster Search K-9 teams provide NY-TF2 with an important life-saving search capability to rapidly locate victims and improve the effectiveness of search and rescue operations in a structural collapse or other technical rescue scenario.


“Canine teams play an increasing important role in protecting New Yorkers, whether through bomb detection, arson investigation, pursuit of criminals, or in search and rescue operations,” said DHSES Commissioner John P. Melville. “The addition of the two new Disaster Search K-9 teams certainly strengthens our state’s capabilities to locate and rescue individuals caught in life-threating situations.”


The two new teams -- K-9 Keila, a two-year-old Black Lab, and K-9 Charlie, a two-year-old Golden Retriever, and their handlers -- bring NY-TF2’s K-9 component up to three active teams. Keila and her handler, Fire Protection Specialist Brian Girard, work in Albany, while Charlie and his handler, Fire Protection Specialist Chris Johnson, work in Poughkeepsie. The third team, K-9 Dax, and his handler Fire Protection Specialist Greg Gould, also work in Albany. All three teams can respond to situations that arise anywhere in the state.


Since their establishment in the state in 2005, Disaster Search K-9 teams have supported search and rescue operations in a variety of situations including the structural collapse of a parking garage in Johnson City, a house explosion in Schenectady, and during Hurricane Irene and Sandy, and Tropical Storm Lee.


“The Office of Fire Prevention and Control canine teams have proven their value in search and rescue operations time and time again in New York,” said State Fire Administrator Bryant Stevens. “Today’s announcement underscores the state’s ongoing commitment to maintain this vital capability. Our long-term plans include adding three additional Disaster Search K-9 teams over time.”


Each new Disaster Search K-9 team trained together for two weeks at the Search Dog Foundation’s (SDF) National Training Center in Santa Paula, California. The teams completed their training on May 27. Prior to the two week training program with their new handlers, K-9’s Keila and Charlie had already completed ten to twelve months of training at the Foundation to prepare them for their new life-saving role.

Founded in 1995, the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation is a non-profit, non-governmental organization based in Ojai, California. SDF's mission is to strengthen disaster response in America by recruiting rescued dogs and partnering them with firefighters and other first responders to find people buried alive in the wreckage of disasters.


SDF offers professionally trained canines and an ongoing training program at no cost to fire departments. SDF ensures lifetime care for every dog in its program: once rescued, these dogs never need to be rescued again. There are currently 72 SDF-trained Search Teams located in California, Florida, Nebraska, New York, Oklahoma, Texas, and Utah. Thanks to Mutual Aid Agreements between counties, cities and states, these precious, life-saving resources can be shared regionally and nationally to make sure that when disaster strikes, no one is left behind.


About OFPC:


OFPC delivers a wide breadth of services to firefighters, emergency responders, state and local government agencies, public and private colleges, and the citizens of New York. The Office advances public safety through firefighter training, education, fire prevention, investigative, special operations and technical rescue programs. The timely delivery of these essential services enables the Office to make significant contributions to the safety of all of New York State.


About DHSES:


The Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services and its four offices -- Counter Terrorism, Emergency Management, Fire Prevention and Control, and Interoperable and Emergency Communications --  provides leadership, coordination and support for efforts to prevent, protect against, prepare for, respond to, and recover from terrorism and other man-made and natural disasters, threats, fires and other emergencies. For more information, visit the Facebook page, follow @NYSDHSES on Twitter, or visit


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