8/25/2004 12:00 AM
The newest member of the elite urban search and rescue (USAR) team Texas Task Force 1 is only 2 years old but will add new skills to the team’s victim location and recovery capabilities.
Maggie, a black Labrador retriever, is the first canine purchased by the Texas Engineering Extension Service (TEEX) under the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) USAR Cooperative Agreement grant and will assist the task force in its future missions.
Maggie’s team member and handler, Mike McKenna, has been developing Maggie’s search and rescue skills in order to take the FEMA Section II test. The intensive test
includes five general areas including off-leash obedience, agility, maneuverability, bark alerting skills and rubble pile navigation.
After the initial test, Maggie and McKenna must be re-certified at least every two years in order to maintain USAR certifications.
“Maggie comes from a line of hunting dogs out of Arkansas,” said Jim Yeager, TEEX training coordinator. “She is bred for searching, and with her continuous training and demeanor, she will be a great asset to Texas Task Force 1 missions.
“She possesses strong socialization skills and a lot of play drive,” Yeager added, “which is a must for canines in order to perform their rescue duties correctly.”
TEEX purchased the pre-trained retriever because her skills are applicable to search and rescue, and officials hope this will reduce her training time by half.
Texas Task Force 1 is one of 28 USAR teams under the direction of FEMA, which is part
of the Department of Homeland Security. It is also one of only six FEMA teams in the nation designated to respond to incidents involving weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
TEEX, a member of The Texas A&M University System, offers hands-on, customized training, technical assistance and technology transfer services impacting Texas and beyond.