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Real Water Rescue Work in Italy
The Operative Water Rescue Certificate was developed by the Italian School of Rescue Dogs SICS and it is the result of many experiences and situations the school itself has worked in with the cooperation of the Coast Guard – Port Authorities. It meets the operative specifications of Rescue Cruisers, HH3F Pellican SAR Air Rescue and AB212 Air Force pilots and crews. After sixteen years of experience, I believe that only these tests can truly be defined as operative tests. Tests to be passed are included in the following performances and studied on the basis of the operative grids.
The level of technical knowledge and physical ability required to obtain the SICS Water Rescue Certificate will naturally lead to achieve the SICS Operative Certificate: without this last level, the training is incomplete and if lacking, influences the reliability of the SICS Water Rescue Certificate in a negative way.
do not misunderstand me, there should be no confusion between the
Water Rescue Certificate and Operative Water Rescue Certificate. The
latter requires sporty and technical abilities which are much more
demanding than what is required in the first one.
At this point, there are myths that need to be debunked once and for all.
clichés describe Newfoundland dogs (or any other breed) as able to
rescue a drowning and panicking person on their own. It is clear that
if we send our dog alone in such a situation, we’ll never see our
dog come back.
The two members of the K9 unit have two distinctive and specific tasks: the handler has the task of calming the shaky, panicked, drowning person and to support and prepare them for the tow back; the dog has the task of towing both to shore. In this way, the handler does not need to waste his precious energy for dragging the person because this is the dog’s responsibility. The handler is responsible for ensuring that everything runs smoothly.
cases where the dog has to perform the rescue alone, it should always
work with a rope tied to its floating marine rescue harness with a
quick safety release clip. Thus, in the very unlikely event that the
drowning person, clinging to the dog to save themselves drags the dog
underwater, the handler who remained at the shore or boat during the
rescue, will have the very important and fundamental task of saving
the dog and the drowning person by keeping the rope taunt. In fact,
when the handler pulls the rope, the dog and drowning person will in
essence glide over the water keeping the dog’s head above water.
This method has been used a lot, and it truly works! This technique
is only limited by environmental conditions, as it cannot be used
when there are floods with heavy currents or in river rescues. The
techniques for river rescues are in fact different and too
complicated for me to go into more detail.
Let us examine the Operative Water Rescue Certificate.
A: Endurance test
and handler must swim TOGETHER for over 2 kilometers. This exercise
is designed to highlight the close relationship between handler and
dog in a water environment, as both have to be able to deal with
difficult and exhausting long-distance swimming.
K9 unit is asked to perform a long distance swim. The pair has to
swim together and they are usually required to cross a lake to check
the real understanding existing in the pair and the ability to
maintain a harmonic swimming rhythm. The test is not times. No
sprinter performances are required; on the contrary, both handler and
dog have to convey a sense of tranquility and understanding. They
should swim side by side and it is desirable that the handler adapts
and adjusts his swimming rhythm to the dog’s. The handler often
wears a diving wetsuit and fins.
purpose of the long-distance swim is to build the trust in the
relationship between the K9 Unit, bring security and complicity
between the two, and to verify the actual physical ability of the
B: Diving from a Great Height
handler and dog must dive together from a height of minimum 2 meters
in the port area. The test is designed to evaluate the operational
status of the pair, which is understood as the ability to proceed
without hesitation to the person in need of help in test C.
dogs used in real rescues must know how to dive safely and quickly
from a minimum of 2 meters, so that they can act effectively in cases
where the place of departure of a rescue is a port area, a reef or an
elevated boat. The diving technique, the confidence with which the
rescue is brought to completion and the harmony between the handler
and dog are assessed. The exercise does not end with the dive, but it
is combined with test C (long distance rescue).
C: Long Distance Rescue
K9 Unit will rescue a person simulating real drowning (see note A),
located at least 600 meters away from shore.
diving into water, the K9 Unit must head straight for the victim
without any hesitation; the victim is located at a distance exceeding
600 meters from shore. Dogs may become disorientated from the dive,
and this type of stress is carefully evaluated in this part of the
test, as well as the determination of the dog to reach the victim
right after diving. The handlers are required to act in a way to
prevent any danger or injury to themselves or their dog. Therefore,
the steward (a diving instructor) plays an important role in the
evaluation of the test: he will judge how the whole rescue is carried
out and, being very close to the handler and dog, he is able to
gather particulars the judging committee may not able to see from far
away ( despite them using binoculars). At the end of the test, the
handler will deal with the security of the drowning person, providing
resuscitation and first-aid if necessary as well as alerting those
needed for assistance if it is deemed necessary.
K9 unit has to show that it is able to take part in a rescue
operation from a OGNITEMPO coast guard cutter. The dog has to be
equipped with a harness approved for marine rescue helicopter
operations and bound to the handler with a rescue floating rope
equipped with a quick release safety clip. In this occasion dog work
by itself alone, bound to his handler by a floating rope which is
stopped on the top of dog’s harness by a quick release clip. The
test will primarily evaluate the determination of the dog to rescue
the person in need of help, while it won’t take into account the
floating rope and the difficulties caused by the jump from an
elevated height of the Rescue Cruiser fighter. The handler must know
how to re-enter the RC-fighter, and how to work closely with the RC
test has been added in order to know how to work in co-operation with
the crews of Coast Guard rescue cruisers, real unsinkable rescue
cutters with an auto straighten up system and a long functional
autonomy. The K9 unit is required to know how to dive into water from
the high board of the cutters. The dog has to demonstrate that it
knows how to dive and rescue a person located at a distance from the
rescue cutters (always tied to the handler with a safety rope).
Furthermore, large sea waves created by the rescue vessels make it
difficult to approach a drowning person. The dog is entrusted with
the task of diving from the Rescue Cruiser and swimming to people in
need. The handler and the RC crew monitor and facilitate the recovery
of the dog and the shipwrecked to their fullest capabilities. They
also try and bring them aboard as quickly as possible.
K9 Unit has to demonstrate that it is able to work with helicopters
by using a winch or by diving from the helicopter hovering 1-2 meters
above water surface despite the flow created by the rotor blades
(wind, waves, water spray, noise), conditions which most resemble the
stormy sea. During the rescue operation, the helicopter crew may
help, but the handler has to know all the technical equipment used.
K9 Unit is required to know specific techniques in presence of a
helicopter equipped with a winch. The rescue action with helicopter
has to be a ‘round-trip ticket’: it is impossible to re-embark
rescuers and victims without using the winch. This involves the
knowledge of winching techniques, the use of special man/dog
harnesses specifically tested and approved for the winch use as well
as special manoeuvres, safety hooks for man/dog, lanyards and AISI
316 steel spring clips.
These techniques are the result of many operations and suggestions SICS studied and experienced with:
- Helicopters Pilots and aircrews belonging to:
S.A.R. Air Force AB212 and HH3F, Coast Guard AB412, Carabinieri helicopters pilots (an Italian Police force which is a branch of the Army) AB412, Firemen AB412, Guardia di Finanza NH500 (body of police officers responsible for border patrol and frauds investigating operations), Police AB212, Emergency Number “118” A109, Helicopter Rescue Organization Lama Ecureil B2 B3, Sokol PLZ – AB206.
- Port Authorities and Coast Guard belonging to:
Gregoretti and Cavallari cutters; Class 200, 2000, 100, 800a, 800b, 800c, 600, 6000, Alfa GC, 300, BW Coast Guard cutters; SNSM 200, 100 and DGzRS cutters.
The K9 unit, specifically the dog, will have to bring a rope to a person unable to manage their boat, which is located at a safe distance.
dog must be able to go from a rescue boat to another which is
simulating difficulties. The rope may be tied to the harness or the
dog can hold it in its mouth.
The handler of the K9 Unit has to be able to direct a rescue boat from a port in order to rescue a drowning person with the presence of reefs. The task is to start the rescue operation from offshore while maintaining a maneuverable vessel, to rescue the victim and return to the boat.
The K9 Unit has to be able to use a motorboat, to properly steer it and, if necessary, pass orders to instructed and designated people. The exercise ends when the drowning person is safely on board with the dog and they all return to port.
Test H: K9 unit basic control and dynamics
The test assesses the pair’s control, operative skills and mutual understanding. Dynamism, self-control under difficult circumstances, capacity to solve unexpected situations will be also highly evaluated.
Test I: Rescue and resuscitation - Alerting Coast Guard-Solas- SAR rescue authorities
See directions manuals – S.A.R. Search and Rescue – RDM padi – sea rescue
Further difficulties have been introduced to the Advanced Certificate. The handler is required to solve different issues where only the use of logic and intelligence are enough to find a solution.
L: Entrance into water in rough sea conditions from beach/boat
The K9 Unit has to be able to operate in rough sea conditions, starting from shore and boats. The dog has to operate even with in the presence of large waves, while showing determination in the rescue work.
M: CPR resuscitation performed in water during re-entry to shore (100
meter after recovery) with a steward simulating asphyxia.
handler has to know how to perform CPR resuscitation during the tow
to shore by the dog. By being able to give artificial respiration,
the handler can save precious moments in the life-saving process. A
special rescue harness designed for this technique has to be used
throughout the exercise.
The K9 Unit is required to have full knowledge and perform a perfect execution of CPR resuscitation in water while the dog is entrusted with the task of towing to the boat or to shore.
YOU MUST KNOW TO ACHIEVE THE CERTIFICATE:
FOR REJECTING THE CERTIFICATE
in part 3: Training