Two handlers from the Dawson County Emergency Services K-9 Strike Team are now certified to national standards.
Battalion Chief Milton Keller and Lt. Danny Speaks received Canine Search Specialist certificates last month after completing a week long training session in Mobile, Ala.
The training conducted by the Tennessee Task Force, one which included finding missing people trapped during a mock tornado, is equivalent to Federal Emergency Management Agency standards for K-9 handlers.
Only one other handler in the state holds the certification, according to local authorities.
“We’re very honored,” said Speaks, who organized the department’s K-9 search and rescue team last year.
The class is a pre-requisite for handlers to work on a FEMA K-9 task force.
Currently, there is not a federal task force in Georgia, though there are state task forces in the works, Keller said.
Speaks said the training is another vital component to the department’s team.
“It’s an extremely higher level of training that’s allowing us to better ourselves,” Speaks said.
Speaks is also working with a 2-year-old German Shepherd named Remy, who is training in search and rescue.
Remy traveled with Speaks and Keller to Alabama last month to participate in the session.
Speaks said Remy trained in preparation for testing to FEMA standards in the next six months to a year.
Only one other dog in the state has the certification, according to Speaks.