On Explosive detection dogs and accidents
QUESTION: A UN advisor told me recently that free running EDD are almost as good as dogs on the long/short leash, which is the system preferred by most EDD handlers today. He claimed that EDD have never missed a mine and that there have been no accidents related to EDD when used after mechanical preparation or as primary clearance. Can you give me any data on this issue? I have no idea, but it sounds like he can't be right.
ANDY SMITH ANSWERED: First, dogs are usually used where people think there is a low probability of finding anything, so the chances of them missing something that is not there are slim. However, your instinct is right. There are 17 accidents in the DDIV where a dog missed a mine. Nine different demining NGOs and commercial companies were involved.
17 is not that many - but the DDIV probably has fewer than half the accidents that have been investigated and recorded. Also, that 17 are missed mines that were found while the deminers were still there and an accident report was generated. Many more are found after the deminers have packed up - and many are found without them exploding and causing an accident. These are not in the database because they are rarely investigated and even when they are, I have not been allowed to gather those records.
You might say that free running dogs being "almost as good" kind of misses the absolute nature of mine clearance. Land is clear or it is not. It cannot be almost clear. I have seen free running dogs search thoroughly - but I have also seen them wander about and not search large areas. To my mind, a short leash and a metre wide lane, with the dog running forward 5 metres and back and the handler stepping forward one metre each time the dog returns - gives me complete confidence that the dog has searched every spot more than once. The handler has stepped on every square metre... and most important - there is no record of an accident after that method in the DDIV.
That said, the UN advisor is also right. With the right dog, right handler, and right minefield on the right day a free-running drill MIGHT work excellently. But it would be impossible for me as supervisor or QA to tell whether that was happening. With the lane drill, I can tell when the dog is not covering the ground and I know that the handler steps on the entire area so he has a real reason to make sure the dog is working well.
To see ALL RECORDS by number... click here...
To read about the DDIV, click here.