Stay tuned to NOAA Weather Radio, your local radio and TV stations, or The Weather Channel for updates, watches, warnings or emergency instructions.
While working your dogs, offer them water often and wet down their heads and underbellies. Do not let them drink a lot of water at one time. Do not pour water over their backs. Hair can trap moisture against the skin and in direct sunshine can possibly turn to steam. This is especially true for black dogs.
Your SAR dog will get tired much faster when working in hot and humid conditions and panting will lessen their scenting abilities. Watch your dog for early signs of hyperthermia and break them when necessary. Some high-drive dogs, may need to be forced to lay down. Find a shady spot or a small stream for them to lay in for approximately 15 minutes. Do not resume work until rapid panting slows down and the tongue starts pulling back in.
When a dog's temperature lowers, his first reaction is to shiver which increases heat production. Blood circulation shifts away from legs and feet to internal organs. If your dog is shivering get him inside a warm vehicle or building as soon as possible. Consider a coat for your dog (depending on fur type) or if it is extremely cold. In mild cases of hypothermia, use heating pads, hot water bottles, or give him a warm water bath. Severe cases require a Veterinarian's attention. A dog's toes, tails, ear tips, and scrotum are the most common frostbite areas. Dogs are hesitant to put all four feet down when they have cold feet. Frostbitten tissue appears pale and is cold to the touch. Warm the area slowly and give it time to heal. Call or visit a Veterinarian if it does not heal in three or four days.
Shaded goggles may be worn over your eyes to help prevent snow blindness and also protect your eyes from wind chill. OTG (Over-The-Glasses) goggles are also available for those handlers who wear glasses and also helps keep glasses from fogging over.
Snowshoes do not do much good in light, powdery snow, but are good when trying to walk on packed snow drifts or denser snow. Wear boots that are insulated for cold weather. Boots for your dog are also a good idea. These will help prevent frostbitten toes for both of you.
When working on ice, wear traction cleats that are worn over the bottom of your boots. Carry water for yourself and your dog. Even in cold weather you both can become dehydrated. Do not let your dog eat snow in extremely cold weather, as this will lower his core temperature much faster.
You are responsible for your own safety and the safety of your dog. If at anytime you feel it is not safe outside for you or your dog due to weather conditions, do not continue the search and seek shelter.Before deploying SAR dogs, handlers must be aware of local weather conditions. Geographic areas with weather predictions of tornadoes, blizzards, hurricanes, and so on, should be avoided until it is safe. When driving to the search location be sure to listen to local radio stations for weather information. Search Managers should inform handlers of current weather conditions and any possible storms in the area. Search Managers should radio regular weather updates.
Bolts of lightning heat up the surrounding air to 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The rapid heating of air produces a shock wave, or thunder. You and your SAR dog should not be outdoors when it is lightning! When outdoors, listen for thunder. Lightning can travel sideways up to 10 miles, even if the sky is blue where you are. If you hear thunder, don't wait for it to start raining, seek a safe shelter. Any shelter with plumbing is considered safe (the pipes will ground the lightning). If no shelter is available, get low. Lightning hits the tallest object. When above the tree line on a mountain, you become the tallest object around. Get below the tree line as quickly as possible, and in heavily wooded areas find a bunch of small trees to shelter in. Crouch down if you are in an open area. Stay away from tall trees. If you are working with one or more flankers, do not huddle together. Space yourself apart from each other. Get out of water or out of small boats. Avoid standing in puddles of water, even if wearing rubber boots. Avoid metal! Don't lean against vehicles. Drop metal backpacks and stay away from fences and exposed metal sheds. Drop anything you are holding that has metal and remove anything metal from your dog. Small metal objects can cause severe burns.
When driving to a search and a funnel cloud is visible, do not take shelter under overpasses. Wind speeds increase tremendously under overpasses. Search Managers and handlers should be aware of any Tornado watches or warnings. You should not be conducting searches during either. If you are caught in the open during a tornado, find a depression in the ground, creek bed, etc. Lay down on your side on the ground and your dog downwind of you. Leave your backpack on, it will help protect you and your dog against flying debris. If you have a helmet, put it on!
Tornado clues to watch for if you are outside: The sky turns green or a greenish black color. Clouds moving by very fast, rotating or converging in one area of the sky. Debris falling from the sky. A sound of falling water or rushing air at first, but then turning into a sound like a roaring jet engine. If you see a tornado and it is not moving to the right or to the left relative to trees or landmarks in the distance, it may be moving straight towards you. If possible get out of its path.
In The Snow
Tracks in snow are visibly easy to follow. It is when footprints fill in with drifting or falling snow, or maybe someone is trapped under snow from an avalanche, that dogs are needed. Depending on their training, snow and weather conditions, dogs can track and find scent in snow. Since snow is cold, bacteria activity on skin rafts will be low. Snow, however, is basically free of other scents, so dogs should not have many problems picking out the lower levels of human scent. New and colder snow has more air in and flowing through it. Warmer snow is denser and contains less air. Ground below snow is normally warmer than the snow itself, causing rafts and/or scent to rise to the surface of the snow. A person buried under snow is warmer than snow (even after death) causing scent to rise to the surface. A blizzard consists of 35 mph winds or more.
Blowing snow can reduce visibility to less than 1/4 mile for up to three hours or more. White Outs occur during blizzard conditions with existing snow on the ground and snow blowing across the road. All you can see is white. Wind Chills occur when wind and cold air temperatures combine to drive down body temperature, especially to any exposed skin.
Many layers of thin clothing are better than a single layer of thick clothing. Outer garments should be tightly woven, water repellent and hooded. Most body heat is lost through the top of the head. Always wear a hat. Mittens are better than gloves. Fingers stay warmer when touching each other and especially when using a small chemical hand warmer inside your mittens. Wear a scarf or cold weather mask over your mouth, protecting lungs from extreme cold. Take frequent breaks to warm-up and avoid overexertion. Sweating may cause chills and hypothermia.