Millennium Post

NDRF CANINE brigade: Saving lives

The NDRF Canine Squad is supported by highly trained canines and canine handlers whose proficiency is attained through rigorous certification in urban search and rescue which is highly instrumental in the successful completion of search and rescue operation, writes ABHAY SINGH.

Trapped under debris, and losing all hope of getting rescued? Don't lose heart, because NDRF canines are there to take you out from the death trap. In December 2016, the rescue operation after the Kanpur train accident went on for several hours. When the rescuers thought that it was all over, with no one else to rescue from the mangled bogies of the train, suddenly "Boney" a male Labrador started barking giving rescuers a hint that there was a chance of someone alive in the ruins. Losing no time the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) personnel ran towards the area and started removing the parts of the train and found a child still breathing. It was not one occasion but in the same accident "Boney" rescued two more persons from the same train by sniffing. For the excellent work in a rescue operation, "Boney" was awarded "canine of the year 2016".

The story of "Boney" is just an example, more than 80 canines have been doing their job with excellence. NDRF Canine Squad is supported by highly trained canines and canine handlers whose proficiency is attained through rigorous certification in urban search and rescue which is highly instrumental in the successful completion of search and rescue operation. No technology is as on date available which is at par with trained canines in locating a live human being under the rubbles in the shortest possible time. For the disaster search canine, certification includes proper command control, agility skills, a focused bark alert to indicate a live find, and a willingness to persist to search for live victims in spite of possible extreme temperatures and animal, food and noise distractions.
Krishan Kumar, Assistant Commandant and PRO of NDRF stated that the canines in many occasions have rescued lives which were trapped deep inside the debris or ruins of trains. "Many times during rescue operations they have rescued those people who have lost the hope of getting rescued," said Kumar.
Love, care, and food can make any animal honest towards humans. The animals become so loyal that in case of an emergency, the dog will be first to help of the master. The NDRF canines are treated by their handlers with utmost love and care.
Dr Sanjeeb Gilbert Christopher, Deputy Commandant and vet in NDRF told Millennium Post elaborated the training of the canine which is based on reward and motivation. He stated that during the training if the dog is able to search victim who is trapped under rubble they get treats. The animal also loved few toys to play with after successful training. "They get motivated by the activities and the training result are seen during operation when they successfully searched the victims trapped inside the debris," said Dr Sanjeeb Gilbert Christopher. No force or stick is used during the training of the pooches as NDRF believes in the policy of reward and motivation.
For NDRF, Labradors and German Shepherds are the first choices for rescue operations. According to officials, Labrador is very docile during disaster operation which helps the rescuers in their mission. "Labrador is a very friendly dog, due to which we are able to our operation with them very fastly," said the official. The dogs should be used to humans so that they are able to trace them when some people are inside debris following any disaster.
There are four stages of the training: D, C, B and A. The training begins with familiarising them with their handler and then they are trained for specialised operations. After some time the rubble search-training starts, in which the dogs are trained in a manner so that they can search lives trapped in the debris. During training, a canine is given 10 minutes to search a person inside the rubble; once they have successfully traced them, they are instructed to trace two victims within twenty minutes, and in the similar fashion the training stages are completed. Their response timing is monitored, and the entire training lasts for several months.
In the year 2017 (July) Sanjay Kumar became the Director General (DG) of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF). When asked about the importance of canine in NDRF and their contribution to the nation, the DG says, that the canines have "the eyes and ears of skilled response mechanism". It is difficult to imagine the complete disaster response mechanism without trained canines. Even with the advancement of technology, no technology is at par with the canines. They help search teams to locate victims using their incredible sense of smelling to detect the live human scent, even from a victim buried deep in the rubble. Canine also play a critical role during structural collapse incidents. They are natural search tools for facilitating disaster response aimed at saving precious lives.
Talking about his experience with NDRF, DG Sanjay Kumar says, "NDRF started its journey in 2006 with the amalgamation of Bns from paramilitary Forces i.e BSF, CRPF, ITBP and CRPF. In a very short span, this Force has emerged as multi-skilled, high tech, humanitarian Force of Govt. of India exclusively dedicated for disaster response. With the passing of time and learning from various disasters, this Force is gaining new height in its capacity and capability and has become the household name among the citizen of India for disaster response and disaster risk reduction (DRR)."
Does NDRF plan to add more canines to the team or add any specific training to the existing routine?
Says Sanjay Kumar, "Canines are trained as per the present disaster scenarios of the country. They will be trained as per future threats and to come up with the expectations. Presently, they are trained at the premier institutions in the country. Besides, a number of canines will be added in teams to augment our capabilities."
There to save lives:
From the year 2006 to 2017, NDRF rescued more than one lakh fourteen thousand lives from disaster-struck regions. They also more than five lakh human lives. More than three thousand dead bodies were also retrieved by the rescue team. More than one thousand rescue and relief operations have been conducted by the force all over the country. According to Rajiv Ranjan Singh, NDRF official, in many cases canines were taken in the rescue operation which proved vital. Not only rescue and relief but the NDRF have also gone through several community awareness programmes which is more than 5000 in the country.

Name of fame:
In the year 2014, when an 11 storey under construction building collapsed in Mollivakam, Chennai, NDRF with their canine squad started their operation. As it was a massive incident, several precautions were taken and the training of canine proved vital as they rescued 12 lives and 57 corpses.
Till 2017, NDRF canine had rescued more than 70 lives in more than 30 operations. Over 90 dead bodies were also recovered with their help. On June 21, 2013, NDRF started a rescue operation at Mumbra in Mumbai, and the NDRF canines rescued 10 precious lives. In the same year, when another building had collapsed in Mahim, Mumbai, around six lives were saved by the squad. NDRF have 12 battalions with more than 80 canines.
For training purposes, names have been allotted to the canines; Rambo, Tiger, Don, Simba, Reo, Boxer, Badal, Johnny, Sultan, Romeo are the few names of male Labradors from the third battalion. Not only male but also female canines like Rose, Lucy, Ruby have proven to be vital in rescue operations. Tango, Knight, Sweety are some of the German Shepherds trained by NDRF.

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