layton Fire thrilled with Cole the disaster dog

Thursday , March 06, 2014 - 9:16 AM

Loretta Park, Standard-Examiner Staff

LAYTON — Cole runs through the fire station training room searching for the one person he cannot see, only smell.

Within a few minutes, after pointing his nose in the air and racing between the tables and chairs, the black Labrador mix stops behind the desk in the front of the room. He barks once.

“Good boy, Cole,” said Layton firefighter Lyndsie Hauck, who was hiding under the desk.

Hauck then handed over Cole’s toy so he could play a bit of tug-of-war with his trainer, Layton firefighter/paramedic Roxanne Bauman.

Thursday was Cole’s first day working at the Layton Fire Department. He arrived in Utah on Dec. 14 from California.

The 18-month-old dog is trained for basic search and rescue and is the first dog to join the Layton department. Bauman hopes that within a year, Cole and she will both be Federal Emergency Management Agency-certified to search for live humans in almost every type of disaster situation. Layton Fire Chief Kevin Ward said his department is excited to work with Bauman and Cole.

Bauman, who has been with the department for 12 years, said she always wanted to work with a search and rescue dog.

Cole, it would seem, doesn’t think finding someone is work. Instead he thinks it is play time and is happy to be rewarded his toy or a treat for his efforts.

He barks energetically, trying to convince Hauck to hide again so he can find her. But instead Bauman tells him it’s time to sit.

Bauman is part of the Utah Task Force 1, National Urban Search & Rescue Response System. The task force combines national, state and local resources to help in disasters, like the recent floods in Colorado.

Cole was rescued from El Dorado Animal Services in California by the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation, a non-profit organization.

“They rescue dogs to become rescuers,” Bauman said.

The organization recruits dogs from shelters and breed rescue groups, trains them to be rescue dogs and then partners the dogs with handlers, like Bauman.

Cole was one of four dogs that came to Utah. The other three were paired with dog handlers at Unified Fire Authority and Orem Fire Department.

Bauman said Cole will not just be used to find live humans in collapsed buildings or in rubble. He will also be used to locate victims in rollovers or other types of accidents.

Bauman said many times, when emergency personnel arrive at a rollover, the driver is not conscious or coherent. Minutes can be wasted as personnel search for victims who may have been ejected. Cole can save time by finding the victims.

Cole is also the first search and rescue dog owned by an agency in the county. Davis County Sheriff’s Deputy Ellis Bruch learned about Cole on Thursday.

“This is really cool to have a (FEMA) trained dog here,” said Bruch, the county’s emergency preparedness manager.

Several agencies, including the sheriff’s office and Layton Police Department, have dogs trained for police work. The county also has access to dogs owned by private individuals or by agencies outside of the county that can do search and rescue work. But Cole is the first dog owned by any Davis County agency that is specifically being trained for FEMA work.

Ward said having a FEMA-trained dog is a national resource for every local agency along the Wasatch Front.

“This is extremely valuable for all of us,” Ward said.

Contact reporter Loretta Park at 801-625-4252 or lpark@standard.net. Follow her on Twitter at @LorettaParkSE.

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