At 11 a.m. on the morning of May 6th a Search Dog Foundation (SDF) canine-firefighter team was called into action when the construction frame of a high-rise hotel-condo collapsed in Bal Harbour, sending a three-foot layer of drying concrete onto workers and trapping them beneath the debris.
SDF team Mike Conners of Coral Gables Fire and Rescue and his Chocolate Lab, Hobbes was on the scene within the hour to search for survivors.
“At 11 a.m. we received a call from Florida Task Force 1 saying that the building of 10295 Collins Avenue had collapsed and that Hobbes was needed immediately to search the wreckage,” said Conners. “Three construction workers were confirmed missing.”
Conners said one minute after he released Hobbes he gave the bark alert and started digging in the center of the rubble.
This deployment at a high-rise construction site was a whole new ball game for the pair.
“It was an amazing experience with so many hazards and difficult conditions,” said Conners. “This is when you really see the constant training really pay off.”
Conners said as soon as he pulled Hobbes off the pile he gave him his toy and he loved it.
“This is exactly what our teams train for,” said Debra Tosch, SDF executive director.
SDF recently celebrated ten years of service, rescuing and relieving disaster areas, welcoming 20 new canine-firefighter research teams to their national roster.
The agency based in Ojai, CA, deployed search groups to find Hurricane Katrina victims in the fall and again with Hurricane Rita.
Twenty-six advanced-certified canine teams were called out by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to look for people buried alive in the wreckage left by Katrina.
Four Foundation Florida teams were immediately deployed to the areas hardest hit and began searching Aug. 30th.
The critical importance of these canine teams was underscored on Sept. 4th, according to The Foundation, with the discovery of a 70-year-old man buried alive under the debris of his home in Biloxi, Miss.
Each Urban, Search & Rescue (USAR) Task Force is comprised of teams of first-responders trained to perform post-disaster rescue operations.