Meet Buzz our latest recruit
To celebrate the Chinese New Year for 2018 - the Year of the Dog - Kent Fire and Rescue Service (KFRS) is delighted to announce it has welcomed the latest new recruit, Buzz, a 19 week old black cocker spaniel who has joined the specialist technical rescue team.
The inquisitive pup lives in Cranbrook with his search and rescue dog handler, Andy Parks and his family. Buzz travels to work with Andy at KFRS’ Technical Rescue base in Maidstone and he’s beginning to familiarise himself with the team and their working environment.
Andy said: “He’s a cute, fluffy pup that everyone wants to make a fuss of but there are rules. When he’s in his cage, he’s left alone, it’s his time, he can sleep in there and he’s safe. As he gets older, those rules may be relaxed or he’ll be in a run downstairs in the bay.
“As with any puppy it’s about socialization to different environments, noises, textures, and general obedience. Teaching Buzz some manners is important but it’s essential we don’t take his drive away or suppress him so that he thinks he’s got to be sitting by my side all the time.”
Andy will be responsible for training Buzz over the next two years, helping him to learn how to cope and respond to a wide range of people, environments and situations that he might encounter. Obedience, social skills and responsiveness to commands are essential in helping Buzz prepare for his future working life.
The pair will attend training events with the ultimate aim of getting Buzz ready for external assessment at a specialist training facility. This will determine that he’s of the high standard required as a search and rescue dog and can help to find people trapped in collapsed buildings, confined spaces or buried underneath rubble.
The technical rescue team is used in any situation where they can make a difference. They are trained to get into and work in the most inaccessible places, such as down sewers, and at train, plane and lorry crashes. They are also structural collapse specialists so if there’s a gas explosion, or a trench collapses, they can go in after casualties.
As part of the team, Buzz will specialise in ‘air scenting’ meaning he will literally sniff the air and react to a human scent being blown towards him on the wind, rather than following a scent trail. Because search dogs are lighter than humans they can cover areas that are more challenging to access.
KFRS has plenty of technology like thermal imaging cameras and listening devices that firefighters can use to help search for trapped people, but there’s nothing as quick as a dog for covering a large area quickly. They can speed up the search process and increase survival chances.
In contrast to Chinese astrology, where the dog’s bark indicates its ability to ward off bad elements, Buzz will be trained to bark accurately to alert his handler when searching for a casualty, which will avoid committing firefighters to dangerous environments.
Andy added: “Buzz lives at home and is getting used to his work/home environment, and as he completes his training he will become a very valuable work tool asset. So rather than getting a snake-eyed camera out of the van for certain search and rescue operations, we’ll get Buzz out, he’s here to do a very specific job.”
Going forward, it’s hoped that Buzz will be used as an additional resource to help other agencies, such as Kent Police, search for missing people.
For Buzz the whole business will be a bit of a game, he’ll be searching because if he finds a casualty he’ll know his favourite toy will be his reward, but in line with the Chinese New Year Zodiac sign, he’ll also be expected to be communicative, serious and responsible in work.