NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Metro's Office of Emergency Management conducted a training exercise with its search and rescue K9 team at Percy Priest Lake.
Sunday afternoon, OEM volunteers demonstrated a body recovery exercise and explained how the dogs use their sense of smell to locate a drowning victim.
"In an event that a person in Nashville or surrounding area goes into the water, our dogs can go out there and help our divers pinpoint an exact location to recover them as soon as possible," Sgt. Melissa Riley said.
The volunteers used training aids placed in the water to conduct the exercise. The dogs are trained to let their handlers bring them to the location of the body.
"When a person is deceased in the water they will start to release molecules as they decompose and those will go along the water and become buoyant and hit the surface and the wind will move them across the surface," she said.
Once the dog finds the primary odor source, it will alert its handler by sitting or touching the handler with its paw.
Riley has worked with emergency services for 26 years. She said getting to the scene of a body recovery as quickly as possible is crucial for both the dogs and families.
"The sooner that we’re called out to assist, the easier it is for the dogs because there’s less scent that has hit the surface and spread out. It also lets us recover the person sooner, so the family has closure," she said.
As summer approaches, Riley urged everyone to wear life jackets.
"Whether you’re a fisherman on a boat, you’re a kid playing in a kayak or swimming in water, even in a protected swimming area, if the water is dark like our lakes and streams are around here and our rivers, please have a life jacket on," she said.