From 21 to 25 July 2021, numerous search and rescue dog teams completed the IRO Mission Readiness Test in the discipline Area Search in Obertiefenbach, Styria. Only those who pass this challenging test can participate in international disaster missions. 29 teams from five nations took part - 16 of them passed the examination.
As the host organisation, the 'Rettungshunde Verband Österreich' (RHVÖ) prepared the test, which involved days of practice under realistic conditions. The teams were on permanent standby and had to arrive at the scene as soon as the alarm was raised. After a short briefing, they were ready to start the search. The scenario was the crash of several fully occupied hot air balloons with several missing persons.
Each search and rescue dog team had to complete two searches during the day and one at night. During the day, they had to systematically search two approximately six-hectare forest areas within 60 minutes. At night, the dogs had to search a three-kilometre stretch of roadside, also within a maximum search time of one hour. The dogs searched the areas for human scent and did not lose sight of their mission despite disturbing factors such as mushroom pickers for instance.
The performance of dog and handler was evaluated by an international team of classifiers during the entire Mission Readiness Test. The handling and orientation with GPS as well as the performance of first aid measures on the own dog were also examined. Looking after the dog's well-being during a mission is an essential task of the search and rescue dog handler.
We would like to express our special thanks to the municipality of Hartl for making the Erzherzog Johann Hall available as a central base camp, the volunteer fire brigade of Obertiefenbach, the Hofkirchen and Untertiefenbach Hunting Associations and the surrounding farmers for their support in the organisation.