Thursday, February 11, 2010

Calgary Fire Department staff to provide security at Vancouver Winter Olympics

Q: What’s cute, furry and trained to save lives?

A: Senior Firefighter Jay Pugh’s avalanche search and rescue dog, Laddie.

Laddie and Jay will assist the Vancouver 2010 Integrated Security Unit during the Olympics.

“The RCMP takes the lead on security at the Games, and is mandated to provide safety and security for all venues including Whistler, the Callaghan Valley, and Cypress Mountain,” said Jay. “Laddie and I will not be sniffing out bad guys, but protecting against threats from Mother Nature in the form of avalanches.”

Jay and Laddie have been invited to go because of their volunteer work with the non-profit Canadian Avalanche Rescue Dog Association (CARDA), a non-profit charity whose members dedicate their time and expertise to saving avalanche victims.

Jay is an instructor with the organization, which is the first civilian organization to be asked to provide security during an Olympic event. CARDA members undergo intensive training modeled after the German Gerghwacht dog program, a world-renowned mountain rescue group.

“In mountainous terrain like that where the games are being held, avalanches are among the most serious hazard to life and property,” said Jay. “It’s common for ski resorts to position avalanche rescue dogs and handlers on their mountains in case such an event occurs and victims are needed to be found quickly.”

Jay and Laddie spend a large amount of time in the mountains including Mt. Norquay and Sunshine Village as part of a local search rescue team that trains and protects against avalanches.

In 2009, the pair began helicopter evacuation transport system training to prepare them for the Olympics.

“We practiced helicopter hover exits, use of a sling and other techniques required to access the site and evacuate a victim quickly,” Jay explained.

“We naturally had to see if our dogs would cope with that type of transport and Laddie loves it – he literally just hangs there when he’s in the sling.”

Laddie’s eagerness is probably due to the fact that he is no stranger to helicopters, having flown several times with STARS air ambulance for training.

Approximately 15 to 20 dogs from B.C. and Alberta whose handlers are members of CARDA will be working at the games. Use of these teams is a natural fit, as members and retirees from the RCMP Police Dog Service are often involved in the training and certification of CARDA members. Once members are certified for avalanche rescue, they may be requested to provide services to the RCMP and the Provincial Emergency Program of B.C.

Laddie and Jay will be stationed out of Squamish Feb. 20 to 28th.

“The Department has been enormously supportive of my involvement in the Olympic Games. I really appreciate being given a tour to complete my duties at the Games and contribute to what will be a historical event for Western Canada,” said Jay.

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