'We need to acknowledge that first aid

is not just needed for the body,

but it has also to include the mind, the soul.'  

Essam Daod

There are things we can do   To rework an old saying, this is not our first tornado.

Beginning with a high school shooting more than 25 years ago, NATIONAL has responded to hurricanes, acts of terrorism, school shootings, and other critical incidents from the mass casualty to the individual.

We recognize the pattern to the chaos of crisis, however unlikely a pattern may seem.

In the chaos of crisis, we recognize each person and each community possess capacities in abundance beyond their current vulnerabilities. When someone is hurting, together there are things we can do.


The pattern of crisis: resilience, readiness, response and recovery  As responders, our response begins well before crisis strikes by working alongside our community partners to build resilience, relationships and resources.

We continuously work alongside them to support their programs and local efforts to prepare our communities for disasters.

And when the unthinkable happens, we respond alongside them to provide the immediate psychological stability people need to move from crisis to recovery to well-being.

for communities why we respond

'Never doubt that a small group

of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.

Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.' 

Margaret Mead

Why   As responders, we volunteer to serve because we believe together we can make a difference, relieve suffering, aid in recovery, and help people affected by crisis, trauma or disaster.

The reasons behind our service are as varied as each one of us who serves. Some serve to shine a light on the path forward for someone who’s experiencing a similar crisis as we once survived.

Some serve because we are grateful for our own good fortune.

Some serve to honor someone who by their example inspired us to serve and we hope to likewise inspire others.

Some serve because of a deep moral commitment to relieve the sufferings of others.

There are things we can do   We respond because all people and communities –even in the midst of crisis– possess capacities in abundance beyond their current vulnerabilities.

We respond because when someone is hurting, together there are things we can do.


'Being a responder means being there

for people on the worst day of their lives

-sometimes on the day their lives end.' 

Brian K. Rice

Safety First and Always   For everyone’s safety, it’s critical that only peer support canine response teams that have extensive training and demonstrated competency in peer support for critical incidents be deployed to crisis events.

While it’s true most dogs are sensitive to the feelings of people, it’s also true most dogs find the intense emotions and behaviors of people who have experienced or witnessed trauma to be extremely distressing.

The canines' natural survival instincts prompt them to move away and avoid people, especially strangers, showing signs of distress, grief, frustration or anger.

A dog that is prevented from distancing itself, pressured or coerced into interactions with people in crisis, and exposed to behaviors and conditions they find threatening is being forced into an indefensible position by its handler.


Assess   The crucial first step, before any training begins, in incorporating peer support canines as an adjunct to existing critical incident stress management modalities is to assess the individual canine for the temperament, personality, maturity and resilience crisis work demands.

While comments such as ‘he’s very friendly and he’s well-behaved’ would never be accepted as primary qualifications for a human responder, they are regrettably the most cited, and often the only qualifications for dogs who would be responders.

There is no one breed of dog that is more appropriate for responding to critical incidents than another breed. As with their human counterparts, the characteristics of a true canine responder lie within the individual canine.

Each individual canine should be assessed across a rubric of 24 core traits that indicate a high potential for thriving in the critical incident environment. Some of these core traits are innate to the individual canine, while others are the results of its life experiences and previous training. The rubric is neutral for breed, age, sex and acquired skills.


Train the team   Before partnering with a canine, the potential peer support canine handler should be a member of an existing evidence-based peer support team, be experienced in responding to critical incidents using the critical incident peer support modalities, and have the support of their team’s executive and clinical directors.

As a team, the handler and canine will train to develop proficiency in safety, advanced handling skills, self-care, public access skills, legal constraints, and team work.

The peer support canine response teams participate in the monthly team meetings and activities to further develop their ability to work cohesively with their peer support teammates and chain of command.


Deploy   Unlike the human members of the peer support team who may be deployed with different peers depending on the incident, canine handlers deploy only with the canine partner they trained with, and likewise, canines deploy only with the handler they trained with. Each canine partner is a member of the handler’s household, lives indoors and is cared for and loved by the handler and members of their family.


Our methodologies   At NATIONAL Crisis Response Canines, we provide Psychological First Aid, developed by SAMSHA and the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN).

PsySTART, a rapid mental health triage strategy, is used to rapidly assess individuals and connect them with the critical care services they need.

Suicide prevention and intervention practices, developed by ASIST and the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation (ICISF) allow us to provide suicide first aid to a person at risk.

Crisis response canine teams with additional training by the National Organization for Victims Assistance (NOVA) are available in some areas.

Peer support, respite and critical incident stress management are available for the responders and relief workers who help during times of crisis.


Help people be safe   To ensure the safety of the individuals we serve, both the canine handler and the canine are specifically trained for working with the intense emotions and psychologically complex behaviors of people in crisis.

Each team is insured and credentialed.

All NATIONAL personnel have criminal background histories cleared through an extensive and ongoing Level 3 screening by Sterling Verified Volunteers.

To respect the privacy and safety of the individuals we serve, NATIONAL Crisis Response Canines does not post information or photos of our deployments to social media.

Please understand we can not respond to media requests for interviews during critical incidents.


Unified command   For mass casualty trauma, NATIONAL operations and responses are compliant with the FEMA Incident Command System (ICS -Unified Command). All personnel are trained to respond with common language and within the ICS command structure, and are deployed only when authorized in writing by delegated command authority.

Please understand NATIONAL personnel can not respond without written authorization.


Universally human   NATIONAL Crisis Response Canines is committed to helping when someone is hurting, regardless of their religion, ethnicity, gender, gender status, political or legal status, nationality, or any other aspect that makes us unique yet universally human.