Category Archives: Families and Communities

5 Tips for College Campus Safety

Tips about Returning to Campus Safety

Written by Michelle Bufkin, AU Agriculture Communications Student/EDEN Community of Practice Social Media Assistant.

Safety is an integral part of the world we live in, and that is no different for students on a college campus. These tips should help parents and college students feel safer and more secure about starting college for the first time or returning to their campus home.

1. Know the look and location of campus emergency telephones.                         download (1)

Almost all college campuses have emergency telephones located throughout the campus. You should know the general location and look of these phones before anything happens. In the event that someone is following you, press all the emergency phone buttons you pass along the way so that the campus police can track you and find you quickly.

2. Locate safe zones.                                                                

Locate where to go during a natural disaster in the buildings you will be spending the majority of your time, such as: where your classes are and the student center or cafeteria. Most campuses have posters or decals on the walls of places that are safe during a tornado or other natural disaster. Knowing this before a warning or watch is issued will help you calmly get to the safe location.

3. Pack an emergency kit.

This kit can be a small one that you can carry in your backpack: It actually is better if it is small, because that makes it easier to carry. Make sure you comply with your campus rules when preparing this kit, such as some campuses do not allow knives. Some good items to include in your kit are: a phone charger, a whistle to help emergency officials locate you, granola bars, bottle of water, a miniature flashlight, a campus and local map, a paper list of emergency numbers: relatives, roommates, Resident Assistant, and apartment managers.

4. Utilize the age old “Buddy System”

You may think you are too old or too cool for the buddy system, but the truth is it really could help keep you safe; plus it is fun to hang out with friends. If there are two or more downloadpeople together walking around campus, they are more likely to stay safe; because they are more alert to each other and the surroundings, and the likelihood of an aggressor confronting two people is lower than one person. Use this rule especially when walking around campus late at night or attending parties. If your school offers a free ride service, use that anytime you need to travel around campus at night.

5. Know how to react during an emergency.

Auburn University Department of Public Safety released a video demonstrating what to do if there is an active shooter on campus, it is beneficial for every college student to watch. The acronym used in the video is ALICE: Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate. The letters do not have to be used in this order, the situation determines what should be done. Alert refers to how you learn about the danger. Lockdown refers to locking and barricading the door between you and the aggressor. Inform refers to telling the authorities where you are and where the aggressor is. Counter should be used if the aggressor makes it into your safe area. Do not just hide. Distract and disrupt the aggressor by throwing whatever is at your disposal: bookbags, books, desks, or whatever is within reach. The police suggest that Evacuate is the best option; remove yourself and anyone else from harms way if at all possible.

Meet a Delegate Monday: Jamie Rathbun

Michelle Bufkin, AU Agriculture Communications Student/EDEN Community of Practice Social Media Assistant, recently interviewed EDEN delegate Jamie Rathbun, who will have a breakout session at the EDEN Annual Meeting.

1. How did you first get involved with EDEN?portraitweb

Kansas State Research & Extension’s Point of Contact (POC), Mary Lou Peter, knew that I had been involved in emergency preparedness efforts, so she recruited me to be a delegate. I receive EDEN emails and soak in and save much of the information. I keep note of the resources so that if Kansas ever needs it we will have resources or know who will be the best contact in certain situations. Also, if a question arises and Kansas has resources related to that topic I will respond with those.

2. Kansas has experienced several disasters in the past few years. What has been your role in helping people recover?

I serve as an extension agent two counties that have been lucky and haven’t experienced larger natural disasters. I have done timely news releases before tornado season starts, so that people know what to put in emergency kits. When a community disaster happens, I make sure that we get the message of preparedness out. We had a large downtown fire a couple years ago, so I wrote newspaper articles, about updating inventory and insurance policies, and other preparedness tips.

3. Without giving away your presentation for the 2014 EDEN Annual Meeting, can you tell us about Prepare Kansas?

Some coworkers and I wrote a lesson for Kansas titled Get Financially Prepared: Take Steps Ahead of Disaster. The lesson focuses on having an inventory, making sure insurance is up-to-date, and having a “grab and go kit” prepared. As it was taught across the state, we realized that we can talk to people about these steps, but they might not be motivated to inventory their home. For that motivation, we developed Prepare Kansas, to challenge our constituents across the state through the month of September. Each week during the month, they will have two challenges to complete that will help increase preparedness.

At the EDEN Annual Meeting, we are planning on outlining how we started, where we are headed, and how we plan to keep it fresh. We will also provide information in case anyone wants to implement something similar in their own states.

4. Do you have a favorite resource on financial disaster recovery?

The K-State Research & Extension lesson that I co-wrote, Get Financially Prepared. I also like to use a publication from University of Missouri Extension, Family Disaster Plan. I know it helped me in preparing a “grab and go kit” for my own home.

5. What is your financial advice to people who have never experienced a disaster?

The most important thing is to be organized. It is ideal to have the organization in place ahead of a disaster, for example having a completed home inventory. Organization is important after a disaster as well. Having a system to keep receipts of anything paid or purchased and of financial assistance a person receives to aid in the cleanup process is necessary. These documents are important for insurance and tax purposes after a disaster. Being organized is the goal of the Prepare Kansas challenge.

Three Disaster Preparedness Games for Children

Prepared by Michelle Bufkin, AU Agriculture Communications Student/EDEN Community of Practice Social Media Assistant. 

Opening page graphic for Disaster Masters online gameDisaster Master is an 8-level game that tests children’s knowledge about how to react before, during, and after a disaster. The player must answer questions correctly to accumulate enough points to unlock the next level, which include: wildfire, tornado, hurricane/blackout, home fire, winter storm, tsunami/earthquake, thunderstorm/lightning, and the hot seat. Each level tells a story and asks multiple choice questions about what the characters should do to survive the disaster. If the question is answered correctly the player continues to the next level, but if it is answered incorrectly the game could be ended. A graphic novel is also available to print after every level. This game is an easy, entertaining, and engaging way to help teach your children about what to do to prepare for an emergency. A Spanish version is also available.

Opening screen shot of the Build a Kit online gameBuild a Kit  places you in multiple scenarios and tells you to pick items to place in your emergency kit. Once you submit your items it tells you what you have included and what you forgotten. You can print your list at the end of the game. This game, available in English and Spanish, is a quick and easy way for children to begin learning what goes into an emergency kit so they can help prepare for a disaster.

Disaster Hero is a multilevel video game that tests children’s (grades 1 through 8) knowledge about natural disasters, such as earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods. Disaster Hero allows the player to choose an experience level, and then launches into an age appropriate narration. Each level contains games pertaining to what to do before, during and after each disaster, including: make a kit, get to a safe room, stay informed, clean up, and first aid. In each game questions pertaining to the disaster at hand are asked, and points are given for correct answers. Each disaster has a bonus round where the knowledge about that disaster is tested once again. This game is an interesting and entertaining way to help your children solidify what they should do before, during, and after a natural disaster.

 

 

Four Tips for Back to School Safety

Written by Michelle Bufkin, AU Agriculture Communications Student/EDEN Community of Practice Social Media Assistant.

1. Add an emergency supply kit to your child’s book bag or locker.
Back-to-School-Internet-Safety
You know you need an emergency supply kit at home. Do you know that  having a kit for your child at school is also important? The kit may come in handy if the school goes on lockdown or if there is another disaster or emergency. Make sure everything in the kit is allowed. Most schools do not allow knives on campus or medicine outside the nurse’s office.
Include emergency contact information cards in your child’s kit, book bag, or another accessible location. Even though your child may be old enough to memorize emergency contact numbers, he or she might forget the number during an emergency, or might be in a situation where someone else needs to call.

2. Use a map to mark your child’s school route, designating safe zones where he or she can get help during an emergency.
If your child is walking or riding a bike to school show him or her the way a few times. The child should be comfortable taking the route. Remind him or her that shortcuts are not permitted. Point out places along the way that offer shelter if there is ever bad weather, or some other threat. These places could be other schools, community centers, libraries, or friends’ houses. Having these safe zones will make you and your child feel more secure on the journey to and from school.

3. Review the school’s safety plan with your child.
Most schools are now required to post tornado and fire evacuation routes in every classroom. In addition, each school will have an emergency operations plan. You can ask the school principal for a copy. Also ask what plans they have in place to protect against intruders.

4. Teach your child how to react in an emergency.
Teachers cannot always protect children when things go wrong. Talk to your child about these events without using fear tactics, and explain what he or she should do in similar situations. For example, your child should know what to do if a person shoots a gun on the school grounds or in the building. Students of varying ages will benefit from the Auburn University Department of Public Safety video demonstrating what to do if there is an active shooter nearby. Teach your child about ALICE; it may keep him or her safe.

ALICE is an acronym for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate. The letters do not have to be used in this order, the situation determines what should be done. Alert refers to how you learn about the danger. Lockdown refers to locking and barricading the door between you and the aggressor. Inform refers to telling the authorities where you are and where the aggressor is. Counter should be used if the aggressor makes it into your safe area. Do not just hide. Distract and disrupt the aggressor by throwing whatever is at your disposal: bookbags, books, desks, or whatever is within reach. The police suggest that Evacuate is the best option; remove yourself and anyone else from harms way if at all possible.

For more resources about helping children before and after disasters visit this website.

Meet a Delegate Monday: Andy Vestal

Michelle Bufkin, AU Agriculture Communications Student/EDEN Community of Practice Social Media Assistant, recently interviewed EDEN delegate Dr. Andy Vestal, who will have a breakout session at the EDEN Annual Meeting. 

1. How did you first get involved with EDEN? Dr. Andy Vestal

I got involved in EDEN about a month before Hurricane Katrina, in July of 2005. I was immediately led to the effort because of a six-year grant for animal disease and homeland security response and recovery. Within a month of being in this position, Hurricane Katrina hit followed by Hurricane Rita, and we realized we had a lot to do preparedness-wise. The fall of 2005 was my first visit to the EDEN Annual Meeting in Fargo, North Dakota. It was an experience for me to see the overall mission and goals of the organization: to help people help themselves.

2. Without divulging too much of your annual meeting material, can you tell us how the strike teams were formed?

After any incident an after action report is filed. After [Hurricane] Ike the report stated there was high priority to establish mission ready teams of seasoned County Extension Agents, CEA, that were deployable. The first teams were established in the Gulf Coast, where 7 million Texans live.

3. What are some of the disasters that have affected Texas over the past few years and how have you been involved?

In 2008 when Hurricane Ike hit us it was a challenge; 32,000 families lost their homes along with a large agricultural loss. Hurricane Ike, though only a category 2 hurricane, was about 450 miles wide. It pushed an 18 foot wall of water 20 miles inland, covering mostly ranchland that had about 35,000 head of cattle. We realized that within 72 hours the cattle would have saline toxicity, because all they had to drink was salt water. We deployed our strike teams to create Livestock Supply Points, LSP’s, and from September 13 to 30 we received and distributed over 125 semi-truck loads of feed and hay. By week 3, we started shipping about 15,000 head of cattle into other parts of the state.

In 2011 every geographic region of Texas had challenges with wildfires; there were over 32,000 in the state, and dozens were 50,000 acres or greater; over 3 million acres burnt. Our Livestock Supply Points and CEA strike teams were again activated to stand up 13 LSP’s. Our goal was not to put out fires, but to help landowners with displaced livestock. We received and distributed approximately 120 semi-truck loads of hay and feed. We were much better prepared, because we had about 50 County Extension Agents that were seasoned, trained, and mission ready.

4. What has been the most rewarding thing you have done in terms of disaster preparedness for your state?

The Hurricane Ike recovery, “Operation No Fences” on YouTube shows the land and livestock owners response, along with county agents and other volunteer organizations. The support we built for them was rewarding to our county extension agents because we had farmers and ranchers that had lost everything. To find that we had a mobilized team supporting them was unexpected, but extremely helpful. We estimate we saved the USDA indemnity program more than $10 million by shipping cattle out, since it saved their lives, and it costs about $600 a head to bury cattle. Also about 80% of the cattle shipped out had brands and/or ear tags; we had brand inspectors to help identify the rightful owners. Through these efforts we were able to maintain the strong fabric of the local agricultural economy in that area.

5. Have you worked on any multi-state projects through EDEN and what have those been?

I have had two major multi-state projects through EDEN. Both were funded by the Department of Homeland Security, DHS, at Texas A&M. The goal of the first was to strengthen crisis communications. We adopted the Association for Communication Excellence, ACE, group’s curriculum called “Media Relations Made Easy.” We incorporated an animal disease issue scenario into the training and partnered with multiple land grant universities to host a series of six workshops using that curriculum. We had about 180 Ag communicators from 29 states and Canada attend.

The second project was partnering with 22 state veterinarians and extension programs to test and establish an animal health network in those states. This program is still up and running. The mission of that project was to improve upon the state veterinarian’s capability to have early detection and rapid response to animal diseases, especially in smaller, hobby farms.

6. What do you think is the most important thing EDEN delegates can do to help the citizens in their states?

Learn from other state’s experiences. There’s a lot of different material and experiences that states can learn from each other. When we learn from each other we may reinvent something we learned from Washington State to fit our state, but the fact that we have guidance is extremely valuable.

If you haven’t yet registered for 2014 EDEN Annual Meeting, follow this link to register.

 

Seven Reasons to be Prepared for Disaster

Do you think a disaster won’t happen to you? Or, do you think it might, but there’s nothing you can do? This article is for you and anyone else needing a reason to be prepared for disaster!

step_1_money1. Save Money

Yes, you can save money by being prepared. If you understand your community’s greatest risks, you can take steps to make your home and property more resistant. For example, you may qualify for a reduced insurance rate if your home and property are resistant to damage from weather-related or other types of disasters. You may also have fewer damages to repair if disaster does strike. What risks do you face? Enter your ZIP code to find out on DisasterSafety.org. Check with your county or parish Emergency Management Agency for local specifics, and then take action to save money by being prepared.

step_2_fema_15082. Recover Faster

Thinking through what you’ll do and recording those steps in your family disaster plan (see reason # 7) make it easier for you to recover after a disaster hits. For example, does everyone in your household know what to do if a flash flood is about to affect your home and property?

3. Avoid or Reduce Damage

step_3_OuchitaCountyLook around your home and property. What can you do to reduce potential damage from a disaster? You can strengthen your house structure to protect against a shift from flood or wind forces, develop a firewise landscape, take steps to prevent home fires, and take other actions to make your home and property more secure.

4. Keep in Touch with Family

step_4_familyBe sure that each family member’s cell phone includes emergency and family phone numbers. Teach everyone to text message. During an emergency, it may be easier to contact others via text message than it is via a call. Also keep an up-to-date paper list of key phone numbers. If power is out and your cell phone is not charged, you will still be able to locate a needed phone number. It’s easier to contact relatives during a disaster if you’ve created a contact list before the disaster. They’ll want to know that you’re okay, so have a plan for notifying them. That plan may include contacting a designated out-of-state relative or friend who will let others know your status. You might also use the American Red Cross Safe and  Well website.

step_5_kit5. Survive on your Own

This is where emergency kits come in handy. No matter where you are, it may be a while before emergency responders can reach you. Here’s a starting list for your household supply kit.

6. Retain Important Papers

step_6_papersFinancial records, property records, legal records, and family records are important to you and your family. But are they filed and stored so you can easily find the important papers after a disaster—or when you’re evacuating? These papers will make it easier for you to recover. Here are some tips on organizing, managing, and accessing your papers.

7. Avoid Panic

Image of an example family disaster plan.Create a family disaster plan. Having a plan can help your family make it through any disaster with minimal stress. A comprehensive family disaster plan includes information about each family member, household pets, insurance and finances, and the home itself and its contents. Most important, the plan outlines what each family member should do during an emergency and identifies safe places inside and outside the home. Here’s a family disaster plan template from the University of Missouri Extension.

4 things to do during a hurricane

Post by Michelle Bufkin, AU Agriculture Communications Student/EDEN Community of Practice Social Media Assistant

Last week we discussed what to do to prepare, before a hurricane forms. This week we will discuss what to during a hurricane in your area. Even though there are no hurricanes on either side of the US currently, it is never too early to prepare!

Hurrican 1. Listen to a weather radio or app
The best way to stay informed during a hurricane is to listen to a weather radio. Nowadays there are apps that do the same thing, but I would be wary about using them during a storm because the power may be out and your phone can die quickly when using them. You may ask, why should I listen to the weather radio, I already know a hurricane is in my area. Because hurricanes can cause other natural disasters such as: tornadoes, hail, flooding, and landslides. The best way to be prepared for these is to be informed.

2. Ensure food & water availability
One important thing to have during a hurricane is enough food and water for you and your family. The issue with this, is having food that can be eaten without power. For a list of suggested ready to eat food to have, visit this website. For a safe water supply fill up tubs for water to flush toilets. For safe drinking water fill up large containers, estimate a gallon of water a day per person for a few days. For more water tips visit here.

food safety3. Ensure (cold) food safety
One easy way to keep cold food safe is to turn your refrigerator to its coldest setting and keep the doors closed. If the fridge temperature rises above 40 degrees for more than two hours go ahead and discard any perishable foods such as meat, poultry, leftovers, fish, and eggs. If your freezer rises above 40 degrees for an extended period of time and the food no longer has ice crystals on it throw it out. Never taste food to see if it is still good. Remember this handy tip: when in doubt, throw it out!

4. Evacuation
If you are considering evacuation, evacuate early. It reduces the stress on you and your family from traffic. If an evacuation becomes mandatory, know your evacuation routes and have a plan in place on how to reach them if they become congested. Don’t forget to already have a planned place to evacuate to, and contact them ahead of time.

I hope these tips help you feel more confident in preparing for when a hurricane is approaching your area. Remember: It is never too early to prepare!

5 Things to do to be Hurricane Ready

Post by Michelle Bufkin, AU Agriculture Communications Student/EDEN Community of Practice Social Media Assistant

With the first hurricane of the season in the East Pacific Ocean approaching Central America and the Atlantic Ocean clear for now, there is no better time to begin preparing. There are 5 important steps to follow now when preparing for hurricane season.

1. Build an emergency kit
This should be done before a hurricane is forming, so plan ahead and buy a few things every time you go to the store. Do not wait until the last minute to buy supplies for your kit, they may not be available! To find out what to put in your emergency kit by visiting redcross.org. Dog at table, "Where's the plan?"Also don’t forget your pets while making emergency kits. The ASPCA and PetMD provide good overviews of what should be in a pet emergency kit. Ready.gov also provides great information on preparing your pet for emergencies.

2. Make a plan
Your family should have an emergency plan prepared and in place long before NOAA announces a tropical storm or hurricane. Make sure in this plan you include where your family plans to evacuate to if necessary. If you plan to evacuate to friends or relatives make sure they are aware and correctly prepared to house (not the word I wanna use, but can’t think of another one) you and your family should the need arise.  Check out this free printable checklist from getbuttonedup.com. What tasks can you check off in twenty minutes a night for a week?

3. Know your surroundings
Check the area you live to see if it is prone to flooding from storm surges and rains. If it is make sure insurance will cover any flooding that might occur this hurricane season. Research the local evacuation routes and how to get to them. If an evacuation becomes mandatory the routes might become extremely congested or difficult to reach. Can you identify an alternate route? Being prepared beforehand and confident of the location of the routes will make the evacuation much smoother. If you don’t live on the coast, you still might be affected by hurricane evacuations. Is your community a destination for evacuees?

4. Plan to secure your belongings
If a hurricane becomes imminent and threatening, it might be necessary to move some of your belongings to better protect them. If you discuss this ahead of time, the stress of moving them can be reduced. You will want to bring in all outdoor furniture and anything else that might blow away. If you have antique or sentimental pieces of furniture and your house is prone to flooding, or you think it might, moving those pieces to a higher level will better protect them. You can also take inventory of your belongings ahead of time, either by pictures or pen and paper. This will better help the insurance company assess losses.

5. Prepare your property
There are things you can do around your house now to better protect your property from wind or rain. Trim dead limbs or branches off trees and bushes to make them more wind resistant. Clear gutters of debris. Install storm shutters on your windows. These are permanent and prevent breaking. If you plan on riding the storm out, buy or inspect your generator to insure that it is working properly.

Even though hurricane season is just beginning, it is never too early to get prepared! Check back next week to see what you should do once a hurricane is formed and approaching!

p.s.  Here are homeowner handbooks from the Gulf of Mexico Alliance.

Interview with Dr. Melissa Newman: Oso Mudslide Volunteer Part II

Michelle Bufkin, AU Agriculture Communications Student/ EDEN Community of Practice Social Media Assistant, recently interviewed Dr. Melissa Newman to learn about search and rescue dogs and about her experience in Oso. Here is part 2 of Michelle’s interview with EDEN delegate Melissa Newman

How was the Oso mudslide similar or different from other conditions you have worked with your dog?
It was absolutely completely different. There was no way I could have prepared or trained my dogs for that. This mudslide was so much bigger than anything I could explain. There was more than just a little bit of mud. We were talking anywhere between 10-40 feet of mud. There were trees, houses, anything in its way it just pushed, it was said that the winds in front of the mudslide were in excess of 200 mph. They had huge excavators from the lumber companies and they were running everywhere creating noise; I could not have trained that situation, but because of the other training we had given the dogs they were prepared for it. Dog experts say that dogs don’t generalize, but I think you can train them to; when you keep taking them to different rubble piles they start to realize that the conditions don’t matter, they just need to do their job. But the mud was crazy, I sunk at one point all the way up to my chest and it took six men to dig me out because the mud was so deep and thick. These dogs maneuvered over all of this, got stuck in the mud, pulled themselves out. It was absolutely incredible, I was impressed with all of the dogs there, not just mine. There were 20 dogs there sent by FEMA, split into two groups of 10 dogs. I worked with the 10 dogs that were in my group and one dog was as good as another.

FEMA Oso MudslideDid the mud from the slide mess up the dog’s senses? 
Working the slide was actually difficult for the dogs because there were places where the odor did not come straight out. There was a lot of water because the slide rerouted a river, so the dogs would find odor in the water, and they were right, but that was not where we needed to dig. So what we did for the most part was once a dog sensed odor we would send in another dog to better locate a high priority place to dig. It was difficult for the dogs originally because they were not getting rewarded even though they thought they were at source. There was just so many feet of mud, and it rained out there probably 11 or 12 of the 14 days we were there, so the mud never dried; which may have actually helped us because if it had dried it would have made a cast that really would have kept the odor down. It was tough work, and unfortunately because there were so many fatalities that meant there was an odor everywhere. The dogs adjusted to it, but no dog by itself had a find. It was absolutely a team effort. When we went out, there were 12 people missing still, when we left that number was down to two.

With such a large area of debris, how did you focus a search?
They separated the areas geographically. There was a natural break in the mudslide to the east and west, so they split down that. I was assigned with the California Task Force 7, who hosted us. We worked the western side of the slide. They broke it down in grids, so we just worked the dogs in those grids and cleared our portion of it. The other group was assigned to Washington Task Force 1 and worked the same way on the east side. The excavators had their own grid, they would dig to natural surface and then move and dig to natural surface there. What made this a unique deployment is this was the first time that FEMA sent FEMA certified human remains detection dogs, they have used HR dogs before. They also did the first modular deployment ever, which means only handlers and their dogs were sent to Washington, instead of our entire task force. They did this because California Task Force 7 and Washington Task Force 1 were already in place, all they needed more of was handlers and dogs.

I know the conditions in Oso were extreme. How long can a dog successfully work in conditions like that?
It varies. When we went out originally we were working 10-hour days, but they quickly realized they did not want to exhaust all of the dogs at once. So they put us on a rotation where we would either get a morning or an afternoon off every other day. We were working 4-hour shifts, and during those 4 hours the dogs were not going non-stop. On the first few days we did the wide, cover it and screen it, and they got GPS points to focus on from there. Then we came back and targeted those areas. Personally, I would have liked to work my dog more, but the way they handled him he worked very hard and very well. Two things we were concerned about were dehydration and hypothermia. We had to put them in warming tents and make sure they had fluids whenever we were not working.

After seeing the disaster first hand, is there any advice you would give our readers to help recover from a natural disaster like this?
This community was pretty spectacular, they just handled it. This slide took out a major road between two towns,so all they had now was a logging road south of the incident; the day I got there it was a one-lane rough road, and when I left most of it was two lanes and resurfaced. The community was really good about taking care of people, we had thank you notes in our laundry and lunches, there were people that were doing our laundry for free to support us. As a community they knew where their resources were, their fire departments responded immediately. Knowing what resources you have available to you in state is critical. The communities need to know the details of where to get state support before an incident occurs. I can’t see anything that this community could have done differently to help in recovery. They managed their donations really well by documenting when people picked things up. People forget about that, because after a disaster donations will be made, so that raises the need for somewhere and someone to manage the donations. I guess that is a lesson learned for other communities, never underestimate the amount of stuff the community will receive. It truly was an honor to help this community because they are so sad, and if you can help them it’s good to be able to do that.

Didn’t see the first part of the interview? Read it here.

Interview with Dr. Melissa Newman: Oso Mudslide Volunteer Part I

Thanks to University of Kentucky  Point of Contact Andrea Higdon, we learned that Dr.  Melissa Newman and her rescue dog had been deployed to Oso to help find people buried by the mudslide. Melissa is an associate professor at the University of Kentucky and an EDEN delegate. Michelle Bufkin, AU Agriculture Communications Student/EDEN Community of Practice Social Media Assistant, recently interviewed Melissa to learn about search and rescue dogs and about her experience in Oso. Below is part one of  the interview.  

Can you tell us how you first got involved with EDEN, and what your role is?
I have been working with EDEN for about 12 years now. Originally I was just curious, but then I got involved here at the University of Kentucky with Andrea Husband and Roberta Dwyer. We received funding through grants and have not turned back since. We have done an online program and got involved with the S-CAP, Strengthening Community Agrosecurity Preparedness, Project. It just became one neat thing after another. We love working together. It is also one of the passions I have: I am a deputy sheriff, a firefighter and with the task force, so it all fits together.

How did you get involved in search and rescue and why did you get into the human remains detection part of search and rescue?
According to my mother, I have always been interested in canine work. Many years ago, a little kid went missing near my home in the middle of nowhere Kentucky. I offered my assistance since I had endurance horses and could ride trails. They sent me away saying they did not need my help. That is the only search I have ever been on that sent anyone away. So when I got my next dog I sought out a state organization to learn about search and rescue. I did not know whether the dog  or I could do it, but luckily I was gifted with a dog that absolutely loved the work. I started out just doing wilderness search and rescue, which is when a little kid goes missing in the woods you go find them, or so I thought. When the first three finds I had were deceased victims, I started to realize that, at least in Kentucky, people don’t just get lost because there is a McDonald’s within a mile if you walk in a straight line. When people go missing in Kentucky, a lot of times, it is because something bad has happened to them.

My dog was probably 2 years old when I actually started training him to be a human remains detection dog. I certified him through the North American Police Work Dog Association, because at that time all of the human remains detection dogs had to be certified through law enforcement. He was the first of many trained dogs for me. It took a mindset shift, to remind myself that I am now looking for deceased people, but it only took one search for me to recognize that bringing the loved one home is critical to the healing of the family. It is not a pleasant thing to go do, but it really does help the families. I always tell this story to explain where I am coming from: Very early in my career, I went on a search for a drowning victim, the dog and I were in the boat with our life vests on: I look over and see a woman sitting on a dock with her legs crossed, just looking out over the water, the driver of the boat tells me that she is the wife of the man we are looking for. It really hit me that she needed him back, alive would have been much better, but she needed closure. That’s how I started and that’s one of the main reasons why I keep a really good attitude about it, because I am working for the family at that point.

IMG_1012How long have you trained and handled search and rescue dogs? And what breeds do you use?
I have trained and handled these dogs for 15 years. I actually just lost my first dog in December. He was over 15 years old. I predominantly use German Shepherds, but for my Federal Emergency Management Agency, live-find work, I have a Labrador and a Dutch Shepherd, because to do the work for FEMA they have to be so athletic and over the top ready to work; they can’t be affected by the environment. I go with the best dog, not necessarily the best breed, but I am biased to German Shepherds because I love them. The traditional FEMA dog is a live-find dog. It was not until August of last year (2013) that FEMA allowed task forces to have human remains detection dogs. This was because FEMA’s objective was to get there very quickly and find everyone alive and save them. But they realized when they’re coming in days after an event occurs they still need to help in the recovery process so the community can move on.

Can you give a detailed description of how your dog does its job?
They work by smelling the air. My job is to get him in a position to have the wind blown to him, much like a bird dog works. We refer to this as air scent search dogs, as opposed to a traditional tracking dog, which a lot of people think of as a bloodhound with his nose on the ground. My dogs work off-lead. Most of the time they work without collars because we are sending them into hazardous conditions and don’t want them to get hung up on anything. We’ll send them into the area, they’ll cover the area smelling the wind and if they detect the presence of human remains, they will go to that location and get as absolutely as close as they can. We train them nose to source. The closeness is really critical in law enforcement, but we use it for disaster dogs also. They get to that point and then bark until the handler gets there to say good boy. My dogs are working towards a paycheck of a toy, different dogs have different rewards but I have found toys work best for them. Some people try to reward with food, the problem with that is that, at some disasters there are people’s kitchens with refrigerators full of food so the dog will eat while working, and not get a lot of work done. With my dogs, they know that I am the one that has his toy, so he has to find something for me to reward him.