As helping hands and hearts unified all over the world to assist those affected by the horrific quake in Haiti last month, Spot’s friends at International K9 Search and Rescue were seeking air miles to help get support to the site.
As usual Harry Oakes, president of IK9SARS, had much on his mind, and many questions coming at him. Harry asked us to share the following in hopes of keeping families safe in the event of disaster in the Northwest. — the Editor
Now that the USAR FEMA team has worked the Hotel Montana and other locations in Haiti, pulling out numerous survivors (GREAT JOB PEOPLE and dogs) there are families scrambling to find answers for those still missing.
I've received hundreds of emails and calls asking: Why I’m not over there helping; What can be done? Who do these folks turn to to find their loved ones?
I'll answer the questions in order.
The International K9 Search and Rescue Service crew after hurricane Mitch in Honduras. The crew paid their own way there, donated 12 days’ labor, found 59 dead and treated numerous injured. They also provided grief therapy for families and children who had lost loved ones. The crew worked similarly in Turkey in 1999; found 14 alive, recovered 71 dead. First we never go into any SAR call UNINVITED. We had to wait like everyone else to obtain the ok to go in and respond with our SAR dog teams.
We are not part of FEMA.
These situations are very political and, because we’re a private team we require the freedom to respond privately for the US Government as well as for private families who employ us. We get hired to respond by families, other governments, our own government agencies, churches, friends of families with members missing, etc.
Second, until Jan. 17th, there was no infrastructure — police, fire, medical, military — to start ORGANIZING and planning. Logistics is a nightmare.
The US Military and USAR FEMA and other teams are doing an OUTSTANDING JOB and are starting to make a difference. This is only the icing on the cake.
Why aren’t we there right now? The simple answer is that we can't afford the airfare.
We were quoted $1600-$1,900/ticket, so we're waiting and hoping someone will donate AIRMILES so we can fly in. As soon as we get the tickets, we're packed and on the plane. We’ve approached the airlines and they won’t donate the tickets.
We were supposed to fly out Saturday, but the plane got bumped and the victim search we were contracted to go look for (US Citizens) were able to be handled by another team already on the ground in Haiti.
Yes there are 1000's still trapped and yes we can still possibly save lives but not until we're there.
Yes there needs to be search teams looking for Haitian victims as well. There are. 14 different countries have teams in right now and more coming.
Q: What needs to be done to find the remaining victims in Hotel Montana and other major structures?
A: Heavy equipment must be brought in to tear down, layer by layer, each level of the structures and then our search dogs or others can go in and search and recover the remains of loved ones still missing.
Q: Can anyone still be alive?
A: Yes, of course. I’ve seen survivors pulled in the Philippine earthquake in 1990 from the Hiatt Regency in Bagio after two weeks of being stuck in the elevator shaft. We found four survivors with SAR dog Valorie in the 1999 Turkey earthquake after 10 days in 100-degree heat. No food, no water. They survived.
Disaster Preparedness Tips:
There are large and small voids that happen during quakes. Some folks have water, food, flashlights, etc., near their beds and workspaces in case of such an incident. Those are the ones most likely to survive — they were PREPARED.
For years I’ve taught folks at businesses, schools, SAR groups, law enforcement, etc. on disaster preparedness through the Help Us Find you safety programs I developed in 1986. This has saved 16 lives to date that we know of.
If you would like information, contact me at International K9 Search and Rescue Services. We’ll send you information free of charge.
Here are few vital basics of disaster prepared
Three days’ supply: Food, water, flashlight, batteries, calmulite sticks, toilet paper, plastic bags, plastic whistle, space blankets, rain gear, ski cap, first aid kit.
Store all in a one-gallon bucket under every desk. In the event of an incident, if you’re at work, you can duck, cover, and hold. If you are trapped, you’ll have the necessary items to keep you alive until help arrives.
Kids should have these items stored at school. At home these supplies should be kept under each bed. In the event of a quake, roll off the bed to the safety of a void, and have the supplies within reach.
NEVER EVER EVER Stand in a doorway. I’ve found more dead people crushed in doorways than any other location in the 16 disasters in which I’ve assisted. That is outdated, bad information.
In the car: In addition to the listed items, also carry boots, safety glasses, leather gloves, appropriate clothing, sleeping bag and tent.
At home: Items listed plus three days (minimum) supply of food, water, shelter for pets and people OUTSIDE YOUR HOME OR APARTMENT.
Important Note: Never store these items in the basement or attic. In the event of collapse or fire you’re out of luck.
Get out, get your survival gear, and survive. Then help your neighbors.
Hold a block party and discuss these things.
Contact us or the American Red Cross for a list of survival gear.
Remember, if you still have family members missing in Haiti; contact us. We’re here to help you.