Canine Search and Rescue Team Malta
Their goal is to be a deployable light urban search and rescue team with a speciality on canine searches. Functioning under the INSARAG guidelines and readying to be internationally deployable to all countries covered by the UN.
As a sub-organisation within the Sovereign Military Order of Malta - Maltese Association, our mission as the Canine SAR (Search and Rescue) Team is to train our group of volunteers to search for and rescue people in distress in Malta and overseas. This is done with the training of canines specialised for working in this field, all of which are privately owned by volunteers. Our training follows INSARAG Guidelines (https://www.insarag.org/) to ensure that we operate under international standards and established methodology. Our overall aim is to obtain INSARAG Accreditation, which will allow us to assist local authorities and to be able to deploy within Europe, Africa and the Middle East, either as a Light USAR (Urban Search and Rescue) team specialized on K9 search, or as part of a larger joint Medium or Heavy USAR team such as partnering up with the local Civil Protection Department.
This fits within the Order of Malta's overarching modern day mission, which is largely focused on providing humanitarian assistance and aids victims of natural disasters, epidemics and war.
The ultimate goal for our work in the local scene is to become a reliable support to the Civil Protection Department in Malta. We are already collaborating through occasional joint training sessions, and the Director General of the CPD is eager to strengthen this collaboration in the coming years. Once we are accredited, we will be deployable at a moment's notice to search for missing persons, whether lost outdoors or trapped under a collapsed building.
We currently train an evergrowing team of 31 human volunteers and 13 canines, with more registrations being processed. Ages range from 16 to 52, with the majority aged 25-35. We receive interest from an average of 3 new volunteers every month through our presence at events and social media posts. The more activity we have to promote, the more our work will be seen by the general public and the more registrations we will be happy to receive.
"In the past 4 months alone, we have struck up strong relations with a number of international organisations. We are currently working with SRRSZ, a Romanian Canine SAR Voluntary Organisation, in planning a joint training session overseas in November. Our team has also commenced Canine Accreditation Training with Darryl Pleasants from the international organisation Animals Saving Animals, as well as an Advanced Canine First Aid course delivered by the UK-based Pegasus First Aid.
This is all secondary to the relationship we are fostering with the United Nations, however. We are already in touch with the UNDAC & INSARAG Secretariat for Europe and CIS countries, as detailed later in the application (email attached). This is only the beginning of our relationship with them as we work towards obtaining INSARAG Accreditation for the team."
Our mission has garnered significant interest among the CSR departments of numerous corporations, including several iGaming companies and leading insurance providers who are looking to organise team-building activities with a deeper purpose, in support of a good cause.
Our volunteers currently dedicate an average of 8 hours per week to the cause. Whether they are canine handlers, rescue trainees, medical trainees, administrators, instructors or all of the above, the team happily contributes a combined 500 hours every month to making this mission a success. The enthusiasm, dedication and seriousness with which they complete every certification they are faced with is truly admirable, and there is one goal in their mind: They want to save lives.
Our bi-weekly training sessions are not only for the benefit of the dogs - every week, aside from the 3-hour canine training sessions, a separate 3-hour training session covers various syllabi in medical training, rescue protocols, rope access techniques, disaster assessments and more. Volunteers send in videos of the results they've seen when practicing at home. Whenever we brought in professional, international trainers to deliver a course, attendance was high even when volunteers needed to book leave from work in order to attend. All of this proves that our mission is also an ongoing learning opportunity that is enriching and exciting for all involved.
Financial support needed for Canine Search and Rescue Team
The aim of this Project is to help them reach their main goal: becoming an INSARAG accredited USAR team with canine search capabilities.
Why does Malta need such a team?
Here’s some background: 700 people were reported missing in Malta in 2022. Between 2015 and 2021, 5,000 missing-person reports were filed, with 800 remaining untraced and 43 found dead. The tragic case of Carmelo Fino gained media traction last year, but his body was only found 17 days later.
On an island this small, these numbers are illogical. Then there's the construction crisis that has led to the collapse of 11 buildings since 2018, leaving 2 dead, 3 injured and many families homeless. The possibility that these incidents happen again in the future are not implausable, being correctly equipped as a country to face these disasters is important.The issue is that we're relying on human abilities alone.
In both the case of collapsed buildings and missing persons, it is canines that could mean the difference between life and death. This was recently proven to the public in the Turkey-Syria earthquakes.
Within only 2 years of training, Malta’s CPD have seen their canines at work first hand and have already expressed great interest in collaborating with them, since they do not have the resources themselves.
While Canine Search and Rescue Team have already made significant progress, they have hit a wall when it comes to attaining the equipment needed to further training: the protective gear, tools and supplies that the team needs to train in practical set ups.
What are the funds for?The funds acquired through this project will go straight towards the purchase of 3 full USAR Kits as well as some other rescue equipment for three members of their team to use during training and demonstrations.
In two short years of operation, they have covered training in first aid, rope access, patient immobilization, stretcher handling, map reading, and radio communications, while also training a number of dogs in rubble search, tracking and cadaver search under the direction of expert trainers.
Having this new gear in hand will immediately enable them to not only use the gear during practical sessions, learning how to use the tools and growing accustomed to performing training in heavy protective gear, but it will also allow them to leverage this equipment to make public demonstrations and fundraising events more engaging and successful.
This equipment will also enable them to start supporting local entities. Canine Search and Rescue Team will wear and use the kits during such events. This will make local entities to stand out from the crowd, allowing interested parties to approach them more easily to ask questions, while also properly showcasing the use of the kits and all equipment in demonstrations that never fail to attract volunteers and donors. In the short term, acquiring these kits will therefore directly impact the progress of our team’s mission in three ways:
- Taking training sessions to a more practical level, allowing volunteers to obtain higher level accreditations
- Attracting more volunteers to grow their team
- Attracting more donors, both corporate and individual, to fund the remaining equipment on their list.
In the long term, accelerating the mission’s progress will bring them closer to INSARAG Accreditation, allowing them to assist CPD and the UN at a moment’s notice to save the lives of people in distress.
Their organizational structure and training is designed around the INSARAG models and are currently delivering a 5-week intensive INSARAG First Responder Training Course to volunteers, with the blessing and encouragement of the UNDAC & INSARAG Secretariat itself . This is the first of many INSARAG Courses that they aim to complete, bringing them closer to accreditation.
However, they are running out of courses that can be completed without the use of proper equipment to train with during practical sessions. On a managerial level, they are getting anxious about maintaining the current level of enthusiasm and momentum that is seen among volunteers. Every post published on social media about a training session leads to new sign-ups on their digital volunteer registration form - but these will dry up once training sessions stall.
The overarching purpose therefore depends on the procurement of a long list of equipment, gear and tools. This project fund will help get the basic equipment required for three members. They aim to fund the kits for the remaining volunteers as well as the remaining equipment for the whole team over the coming years through fundraising events, corporate sponsorships and donations.