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West Chicago Fire Department’s K9 Thor Helps To Find Missing Juvenile

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Early morning of Saturday, September 1, West Chicago’s K9 and Drone Team responded to a team request made by the Glenview Police Department through the RED Center dispatch center to assist in locating a missing juvenile who never came home after school. K9 Thor and his handler, Todd Baseggio from our very own West Chicago Fire Protection District started a track at the school and tracked for about a mile when K9 Roy from Romeoville Fire Department joined the search. Both dogs tracked the 9-hour-old track to an area where the police on foot were able to locate the missing juvenile. Glenview Fire Department was able to provide drone support and Lincolnshire-Riverwoods Fire Protection District provided Chiefs and ground support.

K9 Roy from Romeoville

The objective of the K9/Drone Search and Rescue Strike Team is to provide and promote search and rescue K9 teams, drones, command staff, and utility terrain vehicles as a resource to local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies, fire departments, and to the communities within the group, and to locate and rescue lost or missing individuals.

The team is composed of K9s and handlers from MABAS-Illinois (IL-TF1) Illinois Urban Search and Rescue – Task Force 1 and Drone pilots from area fire departments who utilize K9 search capabilities and drones (UAS – Unmanned Aircraft Systems) to quickly and effectively locate missing persons. ​

Examples of situations the K9 and Drone Team Respond To:

  • Missing or Lost Persons
  • A child lost in the woods or missing from their home or school​
  • To locate a patient with Alzheimer’s who walked away from a memory care facility​ or their home
  • To locate a non-violent psychiatric or suicidal person who ran from their home. ​
  • To locate an overdue hiker in the wilderness or a wooded area​
  • To Find live persons in a building collapse​ from tornados, earthquakes, building collapse, or explosions.

They are dispatched by the RED Center dispatch agency located in Northbrook, IL. and their members are on the following Chicagoland area Fire Departments:

  • West Chicago Fire Protection District
  • Lincolnshire-Riverwoods Fire Protection District
  • Lockport Township Fire Protection District
  • Hillside Fire Department
  • Glenview Fire Department

K9 Thor and his handler spend all their time together. The handler doesn’t go where the dog doesn’t go and vice versa. They are together 24/7. This is necessary because a call-out can happen at any time, day or night. Thor is on call all the time, he doesn’t just work and stay at the firehouse when his handler is scheduled to be on duty. He lives with his handler so they are available at a moment’s notice.

When the K9 and drone team are called out, they’ll respond with a fire department pickup truck that tows a custom trailer. The trailer is a custom-built, fully functional, self-contained command center that also houses all the equipment and tools the team will need for a remote location search. The trailer houses a Utility Terrain Vehicle (UTV)and it’s outfitted with canine kennels in the back. In the command center, there are White Boards dotting the walls and a member of the team will place all the dogs and officers on the whiteboard to keep track of their activities minute by minute, Members of the team are in constant contact with each other. There are mobile video monitors, a gas-operated generator to provide power, radios, and just about everything the team will need to conduct complex search and rescue assignments. The UTV has two professionally style canine kennels where Thor can be transported to a location to search for victims or lost people.

 

They have the ability to have Thor (and other K9s) tracking on the ground (even in inhospitable locations) then they have the option to send a drone up into the sky with the ability to stream visual communications. With paws on the ground and eyes in the sky, there’s searching happening on multiple levels and with different skills and technology between the dog and drone.  Pairing the two brings multiple tools to a search, even further,  a drone with heat-sensing capabilities can instantly let the canine handler on the ground know if they get a heat reading given off by the body heat of a lost, confused, or injured person and communicate that data instantly to the K9’s handler (in addition to other emergency personnel) so they can change course on a dime or make adjustments to a plan.  Pairing the K9 with the drones is the best of both worlds, they complement each other and the outcome is even more successful searches. The beauty of pairing these two tools together into a mobile response team is even more positive results.

K9 Thor and the drone team have searched under all weather conditions and have helped locate, or helped other emergency personnel to locate dementia patients, autistic children, and others who are lost or missing.

Stay tuned to the West Chicago Voice for a future story on K9 Thor and his handler, Todd Baseggio.

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