GEMA/HS Dispatch March 2018 Edition - Page 6

salt in an Olympic sized pool, she can smell it.” Once the second week of training is complete, the teams and their instructors then travel across the state for another two weeks of extensive explosives training in Augusta with the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office. After a rigorous five-week course, instructors put each handler and K-9 team to the final test. This exam requires the teams to successfully identify hidden explosives in several different scenarios including building searches, luggage, open areas and vehicles. Instructors Turner and Donald McVean with the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office, planted a total of 20 odors and the teams are required to successfully find 18 out of the 20 to receive certification. The standards for being a GEMA/HS certified explosives detection K-9 are some the toughest in the nation, but Turner said with the climate of the world today, it’s necessary. “We’re seeing more and more creative ways to utilize explosives and reign terror on folks. These guys are very highly trained and by the time they leave here, not only do they know a good bit about dogs, they also learn quite a bit about counter terrorism,” said Turner. Taylor said the GEMA/HS state program offers the counties a critical asset. “Anytime that we can make our county safer is going to help us and, in the long run, homeland security efforts statewide.” Even before the teams set foot on training grounds, their K-9s are hand selected with the help of Keys and Turner, who look for a few critical facets in dogs. To make the first cut as a GEMA/ HS EOD K-9 a dog must show they've got the drive, the hunt, and the game – willingness to hunt an odor. Twenty-two K-9s made the cut when the program started and that number has now doubled. GEMA/HS not only funds the K-9s for each of these counties, but also their vehicles, equipment, supplies, training aids and the explosives for training exercises. They also receive additional funding towards maintenance and vehicle replacement. Typically a K-9 can serve the state up to eight or nine years. Once the dog retires, GEMA/HS works to replace the team with a new K-9 and handler. The training for these EOD K-9 teams doesn’t end at certification. GEMA/HS provides K-9s and their trainers a lifetime of training. Now that these dogs are certified, GEMA/HS and the state of Georgia have four more EOD K-9 teams to serve the people of Georgia and protect homeland security. GEMA/HS EOD K-9 Team Facts • 1in 10 dogs makes the cut to become an EOD K-9 • Each K-9 can cost up to $12,000 • With equipment, vehicles and training, each GEMA/HS K-9 EOD Team costs $100,000 • Most GEMA/HS EOD K-9s originate from Germany and Columbia P.O.S.T. instructors bring training to Georgia responders By Brandy Mai P ublic safety is a function of our society that’s carried out by peace officers in multiple agencies and organizations. Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council oversees training of all peace officers for the state, to ensure the highest degree of excellence in public safety. One such way they provide this training is by certifying individuals as P.O.S.T. instructors who can teach public safety courses in their home communities. Instructors are certified through an extensive 80-hour training course that’s taught at the Georgia Public Safety Training Center and other satellite locations throughout the state. The course is taught with two weeks of on-site training, a week of course development that’s done at the student’s home agency, and one teachback that occurs after the student graduates. “The standards are set very high for this course,” said Jeff Miller, Director of Certification and Training for Georgia P.O.S.T. “With approximately 10,000 certified instructors across the state who can deliver training, it makes our courses more readily accessible.” Continuing education credits from P.O.S.T. are offered for each course taught by a certified instructor, which helps employees of myriad agencies and departments receive professional development credit for the training they receive. Tim Reeve, a Field Coordinator for Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency, went through the course nearly a decade ago, but the adult learning skills he was taught have helped him in all the courses he’s brought to county EMAs and various agencies. “We do a lot of field delivery training,” he said. “The course taught us to teach, as well as develop training programs based on objectives.” According to Ed Westbrook, GEMA/HS’s Training and Exercise Program Manager, Reeve is one of approximately 20 people within the agency to have this certification. “Our field and homeland security coordinators are using this training to deliver courses out in the field,” said Westbrook. “They use it for teaching safety in the schools, planning and preparedness with the county EMAs, and other trainings that may be needed. What they can offer really covers a lot of topics.” Having the GEMA/HS field and homeland security coordinators provide teaching in the field is a great benefit to GEMA/HS and emergency management operations across the state, but, according to Westbrook, it’s not the biggest benefit. “This certification means we are teaching at the highest standard in the state of Georgia. This puts our agency into the profession of public safety and allows us to teach alongside those professionals.” For Claude Craig, Whitfield County EMA Director, having instructors provide training in his county eliminates the expense and travel burden for his employees. It also helps key emergency management personnel take the courses together. “We can host a class with our fire department, po