25 years of IRO
Following a momentous earthquake in Armenia in 1988, international disaster relief and search and rescue dog teams faced problems in coordinating among each other and with the authorities. This led to the idea of becoming active internationally in the area of the search and rescue dog discipline and defining standards for the deployment and training of teams - which resulted in the founding of the IRO in 1993. Dr. Wolfgang Zörner, who was the head of the Austrian Search and Rescue Dog Brigade at that time, was elected as president by the founding members Germany, Sweden, the Czech Republic, New Zealand, Austria, the USA and the UK, and the headquarters of the new umbrella organisation were assigned to Austria.
Development until today
Before the IRO was founded, an initiative to put search and rescue dog work on an international basis had already failed. The IRO was the first organisation to bring the venture to life - even against some resistance.
One development contributed to the success - the professionalisation of search and rescue dog work on the initiative of the United Nations. The UN wanted to harmonise search and rescue dog work and avoid the further independent appearance of disaster relief workers, including search and rescue dog teams, at disaster scenes. Despite their good intentions, they were getting in the way of the increasingly tightly organised official humanitarian relief staff. For USAR Teams, which are mostly funded by the state, dogs are indispensable because of their good noses and are considered as the fastest "device" for locating living people.However, they are only one element of a large unit, which, in addition to technical search, also comprises rescue workers, medical care and management. It is only the interaction of all these sub-capabilities which leads to success.
In 1991, the UN founded INSARAG (International Search and Rescue Advisory Group) and initiated a classification process for USAR teams in order to ensure their qualifications. Today, the goal is to only deploy those USAR teams that have the INSARAG External Classification (IEC).
IRO search and rescue dogs, which have to demonstrate their mission readiness in a strict selection process, are seen as reliable partners of USAR teams. IRO has become an indispensable partner for the UN and and is valued as a competent expert body for search and rescue dogs. . Thanks to this position, it can make a significant contribution to the international search and rescue dog discipline, which would not be possible for individual, local search and rescue dog associations.
Civil protection and assistance will become increasingly important over the next few years. On the one hand, the trend towards a growing number of incidents is uninterrupted and, on the other hand, an increasing number of people need assistance in cases of disasters due to increasing population, growing agglomerations and climate change. Protection and assistance is becoming increasingly professionalised, especially by international organisations such as the UN and the EU. For those in need, IRO teams will always be available with highly trained rescue dogs.