Florida K-9 Unit Prepares for Hurricane Season

As Floridians prepare for hurricane season, which typically runs between June and November, there is one group of rescue workers who are busy training for their role in search and rescue operations: Miami-Dade’s K-9 unit.

The dog squad is part of the Miami-based, 210-person Florida Task Force 1 that is often on the scene after a hurricane hits. This agency does not limit its efforts to the United States alone. In 2010, the Florida Task Force 1 helped out after a devastating earthquake reduced the island nation of Haiti to rubble.

Miami-Dade firefighter/paramedic Maggie Castro gives up and hands a toy to search-and-rescue dog Zeus after the chocolate Labrador found her hiding in a stack of tires during a demonstration, Wednesday, June 19, 2019, at the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Training Facility in Miami. Specializing in urban search and rescue, the Miami-based, 210-personnel Florida Task Force 1 have responded to numerous disasters, including the Florida Panhandle after Hurricane Michael and in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. Caption Courtesy of AP, Photo Courtesy of AP/Wilfredo Lee

“You have to prepare your dogs physically and mentally, as well as yourself, for the heat and type of disasters that we can be faced with,” Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Capt. Kristian Labrada said in an interview with the Associated Press.

The K-9 unit prepared a demonstration of their skills on Wednesday at the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Training Facility in Miami. The four-legged force has a minimum of 12 dogs who have been certified for search and rescue missions, all of whom boast impressive resumes of successful missions. During Wednesday’s demonstration, three dogs independently found a person hiding inside a tire.

Two of the force’s Labradors, Bailey, a black Lab, and Zeus, a chocolate Lab, demonstrated their discerning sense of smell as their trainers encouraged and urged them on as they completed the rest of their tasks.

Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis looked on as the K-9 unit showed off their skills.

“We must prepare now for these disasters, so the men and women don’t have to do the deeds of saving,” Patronis said to the Associated Press.

Patronis emphasized that rescue was a plan B and that evacuation was the primary goal for search and rescue squads during hurricane season. “We want you to be evacuated safely so they don’t have to worry about saving your lives,” Patronis said to the crowd.