JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — If a serious disaster strikes, there's a chance it may be a dog that saves you. JaxReady is working with the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department to give a behind-the-scenes look at how they train their disaster K9s.
First Coast News got a special look at a session with Cricket, a disaster dog in training.
Cricket climbs and sniffs rubble piles as part of her disaster training to hopefully earn a spot on JFRD's urban search-and-rescue K9 team.
Shannon Nelson, an Emergency Preparedness Coordinator with JaxReady says, “If there’s a natural disaster and people are missing, or just missing people in general, she will go out and search and find them, try to find their sent and hopefully bring them back to safety.”
Part of Cricket’s training is to make sure she’s ready at all times if disaster strikes.
“It’s something that they train for year-round,” Nelson said.
Though most think of hurricanes when they think of a disaster, training dogs like Cricket are used in searches as recent as the one that led to finding two missing children in Jacksonville last month.
Cricket also trains in larger, more complex rubble fields, which have deeper voids -- making the scent travel to larger areas and making it difficult for dogs in training, like Cricket, to find victims.
But how exactly does all of this training work?
The trainers "work with high-driven dogs that are very driven to find the toy, and then they switch the toy out for human scent,” Nelson explained.
JaxReady is documenting Cricket’s training on social media as a tool to help the community become more familiar with disaster preparedness, which can be especially helpful for frightened kids.
“Talking about preparedness may soften the blow, may lessen the panic of what an emergency or disaster can bring," Nelson said. "Like look at what Cricket’s preparing, let’s get our stuff ready too, and it’s not so scary,” says Nelson.
There’s no exact timeline for when Cricket will take her final exam. Her trainer says, that just like any job promotion, it’s when he feels that he thinks she’s ready.
Cricket will be ready to share preparedness tips and how to stay safe every week with JaxReady.