How The Dogs Of 911 Changed Urban Search And Rescue Forever

Susy Solis
September 11, 2019 - 8:04 pm

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DALLAS (1080 KRLD) - Among the heroes on September 11, 2001 were the dogs and their handlers who worked tirelessly to search for survivors. On that fateful day 18 years ago, Bob Deeds had just completed training on terrorism through the federal government with his dog. At the time, Deeds was part of the Texas A&M Task Force One, which functions as one of the 28 teams under the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA's) National Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) and as a statewide urban search and rescue team under the direction of Texas Division of Emergency Management.

Deeds says his pager went off almost immediately after the planes hit the World Trade Center. It was the first federal deployment for the team from Texas Task Force One.

Once in New York, Deeds and the team were staged at Chase Bank in Manhatten about a block from Ground Zero. Deeds said everything was covered in dust, the windows had been boarded up and everything was in disarray. Within seconds of them arriving, people were shouting to them that they needed help to search for people. Deeds was shocked by the destruction and was concerned for his beloved dog.

"My first thought was my dog is going to die," he said. "I was scared for my dog. I was terrified for her."

But she was ready.

"I took her collar off kissed her on her head and she took off and started doing her job. her reaction was everything that I had trained her to do," he said proudly.

Texas Task Force One is the most deployed search and rescue team in the United States, according to Deeds. He says their central location makes it easier for them to get places and they still help other states and municipalities quite a bit. Deeds said urban search and rescue changed drastically after 9/11.

"We realized we needed to do more real-world preparation in terms of working underground," he said. "Our utilization has broadened. We didn't have cadaver dogs. We realized we needed a cadaver component."

Since then the Texas Task Force One has begun to certify human remains search teams. They also developed something called Wide Area Search.

"Ninety-nine percent of handlers come from a volunteer background. In volunteer search and rescue, you're doing almost all wide-area search. So broadening things from just rubble and collapsed buildings, we saw a huge need for that," he said.