MADISON, Ala. (WHNT) – If someone you love goes missing, you want to find them as soon as possible. Searches require resources. There’s one group that’s ready to respond when called on for help. The SARTEC K-9 Unit is an all-volunteer unit based in Madison County. They assist law enforcement agencies and emergency services organizations.
When WHNT NEWS 19 showed up at one of the training exercises, a dog named Crato was searching through a woods for a moving target. It only took him a few minutes to find it. The training exercise in the wooded area of Madison County is preparing Crato for what could very well be a real life scenario one day. Crato is part of SARTEC, along with 20 other dogs. SARTEC stands for search and rescue technicians. Group members and their K-9 partners are trained and ready to work. A call from an agency is all it takes for them to spring into action.
“We are a resource for every law enforcement agency, rescue squad, volunteer fire department, pretty much whoever needs us,” explains president and search coordinator Ed Nicholas. “We’re members of the Alabama Association of Rescue Squads.”
While based in Madison County, Nicholas says they respond to many locations outside of north Alabama.
“From Nashville, Tennessee to Gulf Shores, to Iuka, Mississippi and over into Georgia,” describes Nicholas.
On average, the unit responds to eight to ten incidents a year.
“We look for everything from small children to Alzheimer’s patients,” says Nicholas. “Hunters who have fallen out of a tree and broken a leg. People for one reason or another who have gone into the woods and have not come out.”
All that work requires resources, so receiving $319 is a boost.
Handler James Roberts joined the unit two years ago and takes his role seriously.
“It’s one of the most important things you can have for service of the community,” says Roberts. “Not only do we bring back the loved ones, but we can also bring back closure to the families.”
Of all the memories Roberts has, one type of call sticks out the most.
“The greatest call we ever get is one that we get when we’re on our way and it’s canceled and we hear that the victim is found.”