These teams can choose a certain specialization or perfect themselves in both specializations:
- The “rescue dogs” search for (living) persons buried under the rubble after buildings falling down or earthquakes.
- The in Dutch so-called “vlakterevierenhonden” search systematically vast areas without a track or reference smell. These dogs search for each person they can find.
In Belgium there are over 20 relief teams with dogs. They are members of the fire departments or the Civil Protection and passed, after a thorough training to become a relief dog team, the exam of the specialization(s) of choice. Afterwards the dog handlers still practice on average 1 to 2 times a week with their dogs to keep up their own skills and those of their dog(s) regarding searching under the rubble, obedience, agility and endurance.
The relief teams with dogs intervene on average 10 times a year. The best known intervention in Belgium was the one after the gas explosion in Liège on 27 January 2011. Then two relief teams with dogs were deployed to search the apartment building that fell down for survivors.
They are also often sent abroad to participate in international interventions or exercises. After the earthquake in Haiti for instance four Belgian relief teams with dogs, as part of the USAR team, were sent to search for survivors under the rubble.
Call up rescue dog teams
In the event of a calamity, disaster or claim, the Director of the Operational Command Post (Dir-Pc-Ops) and the Commander of the rescue zone or his substitute may request the intervention of a rescue dog team via the rescue centre 112.
If the chief of the police force and the representative of the Federal Police wish to appeal to these teams, it must be done through the Information and Communication Centre of the Federal Police (CIC).