High Level Of Performance And Endurance “So That Others May Live”
The PRSAR Quarterly Newsletter!
Some Updates on the great volunteers at PRSAR
Underwater SAR
Underwater searches are procedures to find a known or suspected target object or objects in a specified search area underwater. They may be carried out underwater by divers, manned submersiblesremotely operated underwater vehicles, or autonomous underwater vehicles, or from the surface by other agents, including surface vessels, aircraft, and cadaver dogs.

A search method attempts to provide full coverage of the search area. This is greatly influenced by the width of the sweep, which largely depends on the method used to detect the target. For divers in conditions of zero visibility, this is as far as the diver can feel with their hands while proceeding along the pattern. When visibility is better, it depends on the distance at which the target can be seen from the pattern, or detected by sonar or magnetic field anomalies. In all cases, the search pattern should completely cover the search area without excessive redundancy or missed areas. Overlap is needed to compensate for inaccuracy and sensor error, and may be necessary to avoid gaps in some patterns but too much overlapping with slow and impede the search. A well-trained Search Manager will know where the balance is located.
Diver searches are underwater searches carried out by trained search and recovery divers. There are a number of techniques in general use but the choice of search technique will depend on logistical factors, terrain, protocol, and diver skills.

As a general principle, a search method attempts to provide 100% coverage of the search area. the width of the sweep greatly influences this. In conditions of zero visibility, this is as far as the diver can feel with his hands while proceeding along with the rope line. When visibility is better, it depends on the distance at which the target can be seen from the pattern. In all cases then, the pattern should be accurate and completely cover the search area without excessive redundancy or missed areas. Overlap is needed to compensate for inaccuracy, and may be necessary to avoid gaps in some search patterns.
The Divers' safety is always the main concern in any water search operation and the risk of problems is reduced through regular training. Training makes searchers SAFE! Some of the hazards the Divers face are;

1. Drowning,
2. Decompression Sickness
3. Arterial Air Embolism
4. Nitrogen Narcosis
5. Malfunctioning Equipment
6. Oxygen Toxicity
7. Marine Life Hazards

PRSAR Divers receive training to avoid these problems and also receive training in underwater navigation, underwater rescue, recovery, dive theory, and deep diving. They perform as professional-level volunteers at no cost to the requesting parties.

More on water searches in part 2......
Meet K9 Dutch!

The Multi-tasked Dog

It was a typical day heading home from a Cadaver search in North Florida when I got a call about a dog coming back to the breeder. He had bitten a family member and they were uncomfortable having the aggressive dog in the home any longer. He needed some rehab and eventually a new home. I was glad to help. I know the breeding and bloodlines well, I have this dog's sister as my working K9, Damma.

I picked Dutch up from the breeder and he showed the typical signs of a dog that was being rehomed, the long stare, insecure posture, and confusion. I have found that dogs very much worry about what will happen to them during these times and I always try to be as understanding as I can be. Once we were home, Dutch went to the backyard and we started playing a nice game of fetch. It's during this time that I have some specific games we play so I can get a read on the dogs' level of engagement and drive structure. All seemed good until I put him in his crate and place the food bowl. As Dutch was loading he knocked the bowl over and as I went to move it "WHAM" I had a new modification to my right hand with two punctures and some blood spurting out. Houston, I think we found the problem. I didn't yell or scold him, just closed the crate, bandaged my wound, and went back to my office to work. Dutch had that confused look on his face expecting me to do some major correction or punishment, but not today. Tomorrow we would start with his rehab.
For me, I start rehabilitating a working K9 by introducing the routine. I used this technique when rehabilitating Military K9 returning to the USA that was suffering from Combat stress, it worked well. Up at 0500, go for a walk. breakfast at 0730. Outside in the backyard for free time from 0800-0900 then back in the crate. Playtime at noon and then dinner at 1530hrs. More playtime at 1900 hrs then back to quiet time by 2100. Same thing every day for a week, maybe two. The routine is critical for rebuilding trust and stability in the dog. They learn to trust the new hairless ape and that builds a lot of goodwill I will need when the formal training begins.

After two weeks his eyes and body posture told me he was ready for formal training and I like to start them tracking. Tracking builds focus and also allows the K9 to do what they do best, use their nose! Creation knew what it was doing when birthing these animals with their eyes closed for the first two weeks of their life. It is the best imprinting you can do with a puppy. Everything those pups discover and learn outside the Moms womb, they learn from using their nose. So for the K9, we need to approach it from this angle, nose work first.

Dutch took to tracking like a fish learning to swim in the water, nothing to it. He came up fast mastering his turns, article indications, and complicated track angles in record time. He is a rock star for sure. He reminded me a lot of his sister Damma who was also a fantastic tracking machine. I wanted to put Damma in competition, but due to the high call volume at PRSAR, I could not do both. Finding lost and missing Humans always takes priority.

With Scent specific Tracking now firmly in his repertoire, we moved on to area search, both human Live scent and also scent specific. Not a problem. I found Dutch's ability to hold context to be amazing. He never offered an error or substitute behavior. What do I mean by the context, let me try to explain?
Context is the boundaries on which we give a K9 to offer the correct response to a particular stimulus. For those of us that do competition, it is just not asking the K9 to sit, but HOW well the K9 sits (sliding in or pushing back) and is the K9 sitting square or sloppy. All these show how good the training was and of course, the trainers take all the credit but in reality, the K9 deserves most of the praise--he understands context. Now in the Ying and Yang of K9 training, we have the opposite of Context which is Generalization.

By strict definitions, Generalization is the act or process whereby a learned response is made to a stimulus similar to but not identical to the conditioned stimulus. We ask for a sit and the K9 offers a down, or a paw, or a bark anything but what we asked for. Now, this could just be boredom or rebellion, but many times it's just good ole generalization. As much as we stimulate our animals for a response, they quickly learn to do the same to us by offering behaviors not asked for to see our response. This is called Communication. If they get a good response, they will offer the behavior again and again to seek the desired response from their human. This technique is known by another K9 training term, successive approximation.

Successive Approximation is the differential reinforcement of successive approximations. This process is known by a more modern term as Shaping. Shaping is a conditioning procedure used primarily in behavioral psychology. It was introduced by B.F. Skinner, whom I regard as the father of animal behavioral psychology. Through shaping, we make a very positive behavior response chain that is enjoyable for the handler and the K9. Shaping is an amazing tool because it empowers the K9. They quickly learn that the quicker they perform their behavior, the quicker they get rewarded. They are in charge of the game and perform with great enthusiasm and accuracy. But in order to hold any shaped behavior, the K9 must understand Context to keep the response reliable which is a critical component of a working scent K9.
After six months of training, Dutch was now solid in Tracking, Area Search, and Cadaver. By all definitions a nice dog. He still had the infrequent grumbles and would growl and show teeth every once in a while if you got too close to his head or tried to neck hug him--he did not like that. But overall he was stable and no longer a dangerous dog.

The next dilemma that would come, did we keep Dutch or send him to a new home? I was all in for keeping this boy, but my wife, not so much. The family that was going to take him called and backed out of the adoption. They thought Dutch was too big and scary. So I had the talk with my wife and to my surprise, she was happy to keep him! Dutch had his forever home!

About a month later I received an inquiry from a Federal Agent leading a task force that was working on Human Trafficking cases. They were looking for an Electronic Storage Device K9 and wanted to know if I could help them. This is a new and evolving area of K9 service and we still have a lot to learn about the odor signatures, but I was happy to help and had just the dog for that job--Dutch.

After about three months of prep, he was ready to work and we started responding to search warrant requests. Dutch was having success and things looked really good for this emerging K9 star. Then we had a difficult case. There were hidden electronics in the house but it was also a murder scene. There was blood and other human target odors all over the place. The Federal Agent was concerned knowing that Dutch had a background in Cadaver. His concern was amplified by a new K9 handler that was parroting something they had heard about dogs can only learn one target odor. I calmly asserted that we are here, we have a warrant, let's get to work and see what happens. I was permitted to release Dutch and he bounded about the house stepping over the human material and focusing on the job he was brought in for. Within a few minutes, Dutch was alerting on a bookcase. When the shelves were removed we found the Electronic storage devices they needed. Astonished, the young K9 handler asked me how that was possible. I remarked "context".
In my Forty-plus years of handling a K9 I have learned some very important lessons, one being Never underestimate the dog. The minute we say a dog can't do a particular thing, they prove us wrong. The more I train these amazing creations the more they teach me. They learn from us as well, and they can and do multi-task, keeping it reliable by learning context. Dutch has proved that time and time again. K9 Dutch continues to serve today as a reliable and productive team member at PRSAR.

In His Service,


Michael Hadsell
Founder and President PRSAR


A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast.”-KJV
SAR Academy Graduation 2022!
Before sunrise on the morning of June 25th, 2022, the twenty graduating candidates from the PRSAR SAR Academy assembled at the Charlotte County Sheriff's Office Aviation hanger to rally for their final exercise. These volunteers have devoted close to 200 hours of their lives to learning the skills of a professional-level search specialist. They spent months learning Critical First Aid, Land Navigation, Search theory, and Radio Communications as well as adding their animal counterpart either a K9 or Equine. Together they form an amazing force for good that serves this community when called upon.

The Helicopter is an important asset in the Search & Rescue function providing eyes in the sky, rapid transportation to remote areas, and a lifeline when moving injured victims and searchers. It is not uncommon for our searchers to find themselves on all sorts of Vertical flying aircraft such as the Huey, Blackhawk, Osprey, and Bell 470. Familiarity with this operation is critical for safety and mission success.

Another important part of the training for the helicopter operation is finding an appropriate landing zone (LZ) or Helispot. Once the lost person is found, the team will begin to asses their health. If an urgency presents, the helicopter will be called. At that point, the team will need to prep an area for the aircraft to land and the victim prepared for transport. PRSAR members receive training in locating and prepping the correct size area for the landing of a helicopter.

The mission for the graduating team was simple. Insert by helicopter, navigate by GPS or Compass to their assigned search area. Perform the search and land nav to the second landing zone for extraction. They had a four-hour time limit. Along the way, they needed to monitor their health, their teammate's health, and that of their K9s. They needed to work as a team, report the positions accurately and maintain situational awareness.

The Graduating class of 2022 did a terrific job finishing on time, mission completed, and home safely. All tasks were completed, no one was injured and nobody died--it was a good day!

We want to thank Sheriff Bill Prummell for his support and the Charlotte County Sheriffs Aviation unit for their technical expertise and great flying. Also, thanks to the Peace River 4x4 Jeep club for supplying emergency transport if needed. A really outstanding group of heroes.

Now Get to Work, We have People to Save!
Have a Safe and Happy Fourth of July!
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