• How do we contact you?
o Call 512-307-8467 leave your full name and number with area code. A member of our team will contact you within 15-30 minutes.
o We only respond to requests from law enforcement and other government agencies. If you have a family member who is missing, please contact your local law enforcement agency.
• What information should a Law Enforcement agency provide?
o Click on the Law Enforcement tab on our website and it will give you an idea of what information you can expect to be asked by us.
• How quickly can Travis County Search and Rescue (TCSAR) respond to a scene?
o That depends on time of day and travel distance. Teams can be on the road within 30 minutes of a call from Law Enforcement then add drive time.
• Will Law Enforcement be charged for TCSAR’s help?
o No. TCSAR is a 100% volunteer force. We are unpaid professionals.
• Is it true that some Search and Rescue volunteer organizations have been charged with crimes?
o Yes it’s unfortunate that a few people have brought a black eye to the professional and unpaid professional Search and Rescue teams who have legitimate, well run standardized programs.
o To learn more about what to look for in working with SAR teams read the article "The Publicity Hound (The Most Dangerous Dog) by John William Grima, a retired Police Dog trainer who currently handles a Human Remains Detection dog for the Ontario Volunteer Emergency Response Team.
• What services can TCSAR provide?
o As a Search and Rescue team with people and K9’s certified in multiple disciplines we are capable of offering the following services:
► Wilderness Rescue
► Urban Rescue
► Search Management
► Ground Teams
► On-site medical assistance
• What types of searches are these services usually applied in?
o Examples of searches where these services may be used:
► A child lost in the woods
► An Alzheimer patient who walks away from home
► Recovering victims from a flood or drowning
► Evidence retrieval at a crime scene
► Locating deceased and living victims in a natural disaster like a tornado or hurricane
• Where can I learn more about these services?
o If you a first responder agency, TCSAR is available to meet or talk with you about our capabilities and to also provide a demonstration of these services.
o If you are in our community and wish to learn more, TCSAR can come talk to your school, church, civic group, nursing home or boy scout troop.
• Why should someone work with TCSAR’s K9’s?
o Both our Live/Air Scenting dogs and our Cadaver/Human Remains Detection dogs have to pass our own internal certifications as well as pass 3rd party certifications.
• Why pursue 3rd party K9 certifications if you have your own internal certifications?
o The reasons are fairly simple. First, having a 3rd party removes all potential elements of impropriety and bias. These evaluators have no relationship with the handler, the dog or our team. They only evaluate whether the handler and the K9 meet their organizations standards.
o Second, many Law Enforcement organizations want to know that the organization they are calling upon for help meet Law Enforcement standards for Live/Air Scenting and/or Cadaver/Human Remains Detection.
• What 3rd party organizations does TCSAR look to get certifications from:
• Do Search and Rescue (SAR) dog’s require special care?
o Yes they do require some extra care and maintenance from special diets and supplements, extra equipment, vaccinations and trips to the vet. They are our pets first and our partners second so we strive to take very good care of them.
• Does every TCSAR member handle a search dog?
o No. We have team members who specialize in Ground Searches, Communications, Technical Rescue.
o In many searches, a handler is so focused on their dog that it requires up to 2 Ground Team members to focus on navigation and communications.
• Are the dogs ever at risk?
o The first priority of TCSAR is the safety of our people and our dogs. Handlers retain the right to refuse to search in areas where the risk of injury is deemed too high.
o In building searches, the handler leaves the dog at the entrance and they enter first to see if there is anything too dangerous or harmful to the dog. If it’s okay, they will allow the dog to search the building.
• What makes a good SAR dog?
o High energy, strong play and/or prey drive. A love of treats and toys plus the mutual love between a dog and their owner also helps. Channeling that love and energy towards their new job as a search dog is what makes a good SAR dog.
• In general, how do SAR dogs know what to search for?
o All humans, dead or alive, constantly emit microscopic particles bearing human scent. Millions of these are airborne and are carried by the wind for considerable distances. The air scenting SAR dog is trained to locate the scent of any human in a specific search area. The dog is not restricted to the missing person’s track and can search long after the track is obliterated.
• Can these dogs work at night?
o Yes they work quite well at night. The air currents are usually more favorable just before dark or right after dawn, the temperature is usually better for the dogs and, since they use their noses not their eyes, they can search effectively.
• When can they work?
o The dogs can work anytime, day or night, rain or shine, but prefer not to work during the heat of mid-day because the scent often rises straight up and is very difficult to detect and because the dogs work better in cooler temperatures.
• How long can they work?
o The dog teams usually work 4-6 task hours with a couple hours of rest in between. The temperature and the handler and dog’s endurance can affect how long they work.
• What happens when a victim is located?
o The K9 will work “off lead” in the general vicinity of the handler. Once the locate a human scent, they will go to the source of the scent and either perform a “bark alert” to bring the handler in or return to the handler and lead him/her back to the victim, depending on how the particular dog is trained.
• Do these dogs require a piece of clothing or something with the scent of the lost person on it to find someone?
o Air scent search dogs are trained to detect the presence of any human scent so they do not require a scent article. They are known as non-scent discriminating. Because of the way they are trained they will find any person (victim or searcher) located in a down wind position.
• Do other people in the area affect them?
o Other people who are no longer in the area will have little effect on the dog’s effectiveness, but since the dogs detect any human scent, they will find anyone who is currently in the area. The dog is merely rewarded and sent off to find anyone else who is in the are. Many times, we ask to have the area cleared of all non-search related people.
• How do Cadaver/Human Remains Detection (HRD) K9’s work?
o Cadaver dogs are trained to locate the scent of decomposing human remains. Cadaver dogs are not only used in crime investigations, but also to search for the victims of disasters, such as floods, tornados and hurricanes.
• What are the types of scenarios Cadaver/HRD K9’s typically work in?
o There are multiple scenarios they could be deployed in for example:
► Finding drowning victims
► Determining if victims are in a collapsed building
► Working a possible crime scene for evidence
► Locating the remains of a victim of a crime
• How do these dogs work?
o For detailed and small grid searches, many handlers will work their dog on a leash. For example, a detailed vehicle search. For all other searches, these dogs typically work off leash but under the control of the handler. The “team” (handler and K9) will be given a specific area to cover. In some cases, the handler will inspect the area for hazards to the K9. Then both the handler and K9 will be sent out to conduct the search.
• Can these K9’s locate drowning victims in water?
o Yes. From a boat and sometimes at the waters edge they do locate underwater bodies. A submerged body constantly gives off oils and gasses that float to the surface. The dog can detect them and will locater where they are surfacing. With an understanding of the water and air currents , the approximate location of the body can be determined and divers can be utilized to locate the body.
• I’m interested in doing Search and Rescue with my dog? How do I start with you?
o It’s best if you read the Membership section to get the best overview. However, we have information for you here too.
o It takes a lot of hard work and training in hot, humid, buggy, cold and wet conditions.
o Certifying a search dog is a large time commitment. It takes up to 1-2 years worth of training at a frequency of several times per week.
o If you are interested in training your dog, you must first apply to the team and attend 3 practices without your dog.
o In order for a K9 to be admitted to the team it must first undergo a “Behavioral/Aggression” screening and also a SAR evaluation. Not all dogs have the potential to be SAR dogs. It’s best that you know these standards up front so there are no surprises.
o If your dog does have potential and you are both accepted on the team, it is your responsibility to train the dog. You will be given hands on training, books and advice, but the effort you put into training your dog is all on you. K9's actively training on the team must maintain a training log and go through routine progress checks with the K9 Unit Leader. These progress checks are to ensure you and your K9 are progressing through the training to become a deployable K9/Handler team.
o Also, it’s important to note that all team members must be and certified “ground team” members. This means you have to be comfortable with a map and compass, GPS to be proficient at land navigation. As a K9 handler, you will learn search strategy and how to most effectively search an area, taking into consideration terrain and wind conditions to ensure your K9 has the highest success probabilities.
• What will I learn as a member of TCSAR?
o You’ll be trained by members of our team in aspects of:
► Land Navigation
► Using a map and compass
► Clue Awareness
► Lost Person Behavior
► Using a GPS
► How to be a Flanker on a Search
► Learn different Search tactics and strategies
► And more…
• What type of people typically get involved in Search and Rescue?
o We can’t speak for all teams but on our team we love the outdoors, being physically fit, and a desire to help the community.
• How often do you train and what are the training requirements?
o Go to the Membership section of our website for more detailed information about our training requirements for members.
• What organizations and standards do TCSAR members pursue?
o We have our own internal certification standards for both K9’s and people but we also pursue certifications by the following National and State Organizations:
► NASAR (National Association for Search and Rescue) for Search and Rescue certifications
► Austin Travis County EMS as well as Texas Department of Health Services for medical certification
► NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) for Technical Rescue
► NIMS (National Incident Management System) and ICS (Incident Command System) for Search Management
o There are certification requirements for every member of our team. Go to the Membership section of our website for more detailed information.
• I’m interested in joining TCSAR? What do I need to do?
o To learn more information about what is required read the more detailed information on our Membership section of our website.