The DRI Foundation is a proud supporter of organizations around the world that help create resilient and safe communities. For this reason, it has provided grant funding for Alpha Team K9 Search and Rescue, a training organization based in Atlanta, GA.
Alpha Team K9 provides certified volunteers and canines in support of law enforcement and emergency management search and rescue operations. It responds to all types of lost or missing person searches when requested by law enforcement and emergency management agencies, ranging from missing children to wandering dementia patients to GBI crime scenes for recent or aged human remains detection.
One of ATK9’s supporters, who helped put the organization on the Foundation’s radar, is Diana M. Leonard, Business Continuity Program Manager for Republic Airways. She recently visited the site and sent us the details of her experience there:
“I was so impressed with the work that they do and this training day gave me an opportunity to see it in action. I went on search missions and was actually able to hide and be found on one of dogs! There were approximately 20 people there, (including one who was in the process of undergoing chemotherapy and was scheduled for cancer surgery the following week and she was out there with her dog training!). What a great experience.
“I met the team on Saturday morning at a small municipal airport north of Atlanta – on some property the airport allows them to use for training. The property is many acres and contains the burned out hull of a small aircraft, a trailer, and then large chunks of old runway concrete.
“The first mission I was on was searching for a known missing person, (simulating a missing Alzheimer’s patient or missing child) where an article of clothing was introduced to the dog and the dog was given the command to ‘find.’ The handler and her dog, Boogie, followed the scent through piles of leaves, puddles of water (it had rained during the night and would rain off/on throughout the training session), following the scent. We walked close to three quarters of a mile down multiple streets and yards, and eventually found the missing person!
“The team uses a GPS application on their phones that allows them to track the person who is ‘missing’ and then track the team searching and see how efficient the dog was at finding the person. This can be challenging based on traffic, weather, surroundings and crowds of people but this dog deviated a bit from the initial track taken by the missing person because of wind direction, etc., and it actually shortened the time to finding them.
“We also had people hiding inside of oil tanks, in tunnels underground, and in trailers that were on this property and the dog would have to find them. I got to hide in the trailer behind a cabinet and pallet and the dog – I could hear the barking getting closer – found me and alerted his handler that he’d found me! We also did multiple missions where the dog would search for human remains, (yes – the team does have human remains they use for training) which was in a plastic bag and then in a box. They then hid this box under multiple layers of pine tree branches. The dog – who is specifically trained for searching for human remains – easily detected the box despite it being buried.
“The makeup of the team includes folks that are – in ‘real’ life – teachers, pilots, EMTs, software engineers, business owners, and regular everyday people. They love being able to answer the call for assistance with the hopes for reunification of a missing loved one to their family, or in the event that person has perished, returning the remains so the family can take comfort in that. They are very service-oriented, community minded people who want to help in as many ways as they can.”
The DRI Foundation is proud to provide support and vital financial assistance to such non-profit organizations, to aid their missions in communities where they are needed.