Award #72: White Oak EMS Search and Rescue K9 Team

Kristi Teklinski has an awesome project in the works, and surprisingly the only tools required are sealable jars, sterile cotton pads, gloves and a label.

The project involves putting together human scent preservation kits, and for Teklinski, an emergency responder with the White Oak EMS Search and Rescue K9 Team (WOSAR), it’s all part of an effort to keep area senior citizens safe.


Teklinski explained,

“There are 12,000 people in our area that are at risk for wandering off; 12,000 people at risk of injury, or worse. WOSAR wants to keep this from happening.”

WOSAR is the all-volunteer, non-profit division of White Oak EMS, which serves White Oak Borough and South Versailles Township in the surrounding area of Pittsburgh. When the search team and their tracking K9s respond to a missing person scene, the team is often challenged by locating a scent article that has not been contaminated by other smells.

K9 Xito and handler Kristi Teklinski
K9 Xito and handler Kristi Teklinski

These kits, or scent savers as they are also known, will make a difference as they are designed to preserve a person’s unique scent. The collection process is simple — a person’s scent is collected on the pad, the pad is placed in a jar, and the jar is safely stored and left unopened. Should the time come that the person goes missing, their scent needed for a search dog is readily available.

Emergency responders nationwide use these scent savers as an additional tool in searching for the missing and elderly. This often includes those with Alzheimer’s disease, Dementia and Autism — all populations that are at high risk for wandering off. Teklinski made it her mission to have these available at White Oak, but as she searched for a source she found companies were charging upwards of $25 per kit, making it cost prohibitive for non-profits like WOSAR.

pic4Enter Awesome Pittsburgh. The Awesome Pittsburgh Trustees awarded Teklinski and WOSAR a $1,000 grant to fund the project. Trustee Mike Capsambelis is enthusiastic about their work.

“Anything that helps mitigate the risk of danger to our most vulnerable populations is worthwhile, and we were impressed with Ms. Teklinski’s creativity in finding a low-cost approach to the problem.”

For her part, Teklinski was successful at sourcing the kits for $2 each, making it possible to have 500 kits available at no cost to area residents. WOSAR’s goal is to eventually expand the scent kit program to include children.

“I am a born-and-bred-never-left Pittsburgher,” Teklinski says, “and I don’t ever want anything to happen to those who make our home what it is.”

To find out more about the scent saver kit and WOSAR’s work, visit their Facebook page, or contact Kristi Teklinski directly.