Crown Point search and rescue dog Jake deployed to Florida in wake of devastating hurricane – Chicago Tribune

Crown Point Deputy Fire Chief Ryan Cusack and his K9 search and rescue dog Jake arrived in Orlando, Florida on Friday to locate and assist those stranded and at risk in the aftermath of the hurricane devastating Ian, who made landfall this week as a category. 4 event.

Jake, a 10-year-old Labrador retriever, is a veteran of seven search and rescue missions, Crown Point Fire Chief Mark Baumgardner said. Initially, Cusack and Jake were not supposed to be part of the National U.S. Search and Rescue Response System, Indiana USAR Task Force 1 (IN-TF1) deployment. However, some of the rescue dog handlers tested positive for COVID-19, so Cusack and Jake were put on duty.

More than 700 people have been rescued in Charlotte and Lee counties as operations are expected to continue through the weekend, according to a statement Thursday from Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. It’s unclear where exactly Cusack and Jake are focusing their efforts. Essentially, their mission will be to search for survivors who may be trapped in the rubble and unable to call for help.

Crown Point firefighter Ryan Cusack and his K-9 partner Jake demonstrate a shoulder carry technique that was part of Jake's training to be a disaster rescue search dog.

Search and rescue teams use dogs because of their incredible sense of smell to detect human scent. Dogs and their handlers are tasked with searching for living and trapped victims during disasters. Like other dogs deployed to Florida, Jake underwent extensive training to execute his mission. His reward is his favorite tennis ball or tug-of-war toy, according to Baumgardner.

“IN-TF1 initially deployed with 48 members on Tuesday morning to get to a staging area before the storm hit,” he said. “FEMA requested additional resources on Thursday, which resulted in the activation of 34 additional lifeguards from Indiana, including Ryan and Jake.

“Through the generous support the community has continued to show our K-9 program, the City of Crown Point and its citizens are directly supporting the Hurricane Ian search and rescue efforts and that is something everyone Crown Point’s world should be proud of,” Baumgardner said.

Baumgardner noted that Cusack and Jake have been with Task Force 1 Indiana since 2013, but their home team is Indiana District 1 Technical Rescue, hosted by Crown Point Fire Rescue.

The pair were most recently deployed to Mayfield, Kentucky in December 2021 after an EF4 tornado caused massive devastation, but they also responded to the collapse of a 12-story condominium building in Surfside, Florida in June 2021, as well as Hurricane Delta in 2020, Hurricane Dorian in 2019, Hurricane Florence in 2018, and Hurricane Matthew in 2016.