TUTTLE, Oklahoma - Friday marked 20 years since an EF-5 tornado was on the ground for nearly an hour and a half, carving a 38-mile path of destruction through the Oklahoma City area.

The storm killed 36 people, destroyed more than 8,000 homes, and caused $1.5 billion in damage. That tornado helped inspire former OU coach Barry Switzer and his wife to open a facility right here in Oklahoma to train rescue dogs.

Just outside of Tuttle is Ground Zero, an organization founded by Barry and Becky Switzer trains an elite group of dogs to rescue people after disasters.

"This is kind of the birthplace of some of the worst tornadoes," said Canine Handler Jeremy Roberts. “It is kind of significant, symbolic that this is where we're based at and where it all begins for our dogs to respond to those."

Roberts is training his soon-to-be rescue dog. 

"Some of these dogs begin training from almost Day 1 as far as getting used to some of the scents, the sounds, crawling on certain things," said Roberts.

After they get down the basics, they move on to finding a person buried by debris. While it would take firefighters hours, it can take a trained canine just minutes to find a victim.

"They enjoy it and have to be mentally strong to get up and go over all of that rubble and across voids and go down into tunnels looking for those people because they enjoy that game so much," said Roberts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The dogs go to various rescue groups like Oklahoma Taskforce 1, law enforcement agencies, and tribal nations all ready to be deployed.

In the near-future, Ground Zero will expand.

"The goal is not just for Oklahoma, but to have a number of teams from around the country come here and train with us,” said Roberts.

An Oklahoma born and bred group that will likely help save the lives of many. To find out how you or your business can sponsor a canine in training, CLICK HERE