They did it

Non-Technical survey can have a huge impact on the efficiency in minefield clearance. However, to be well prepared for an valuable and efficient Non-Technical Survey is a huge challenge. Practice is of utmost importance.

Learning about “All reasonable effort”

September 2016, Hammelburg. 22 participants from all over the world have gathered to be better at their job. The craftsmanship of conducting a world class Non-Technical survey and understanding what does it mean to apply “all reasonable efforts”. There is a lot to learn. Teacher and workshop leader Helen Grey from GICHD has done it many times before and every time she is improving the popular training course for Non-technical Survey. Just to mention one of many improvements: This year the participants have been introduced to an easy to use mobile data collection system and learned to apply it in the practical role plays where all theory gets practice. After just a few hours of training the 22 participants were able to collect and utilize meaningful field data during the intensive role play of the emergency NTS.


Roleplay – the best learning experience

9:30 Thursday morning. 22 NTS course students are ready to face the challenge of a realistic Non Technical Survey task. As part of a very well planned and implemented role play they are split up in small groups; and sent off to put into practice what they had prepared for over the last week. Such as: identify and verify leads in a typical NTS scenario; interviewing informants; finding direct and indirect evidences to identify CHA’s. They have spent days learning both the people skills and the physical tool management skills (GPS, Mapping, photography, data entry etc ) needed to pull together a good NTS and are excited to pull it all together in real time,

Vladan Buric is happy. His job in the team is to document all evidence gathered by the use of the DEDUCT Demining tool rather then to manage all of the individual tools. DEDUCT is a field data collection tool for Humanitarian Mine Action in general and NTS specifically. After just a few hours of training and provided with a user interface much easier to use as the traditional handheld GPS, Vladan feels he is ready and prepared. It is easy – just “Take a photo, make a note and share it”.


All participants are looking forward to a day full of practical learning. One thing is to understand the theoretical stuff in a classroom with more than 15 nationalities. But as we all know – its all very easy until you put real people into the problem!! One can sense the excitement to try their new capabilities to a setting as close to real life as one can come. Helen Gray of the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD), has developed this course over years. The German Army training area Bonnland is an ideal place for the role play. Bonnland, is an small town that whilst abandoned as a village has long been preserved as a military training area to allow soldiers and civilians alike to experience the nuances of real town and real life. Bonnland is set to receive the participants of the course. With its old castle, Church and farmhouses it creates the best conditions for the role-play. Role-players are situated all over the area and are ready to be interviewed by the course participants. The role players have been instructed to make the life “difficult” for the interviewers. We do not want to tell details in case this article inspires you to come and experience for yourself – but needless to say, these difficulties are channeled via real life experiences that those who have developed the course, have actually experienced themselves over many years and many continents. In fact at the end of the day of “reality”, students are all heard to say how real the experience actually was.


Working like Sherlock Holmes – the Master of Deduction

DEDUCT has been tested in several countries and is in operational use in Afghanistan for EOD call outs and for all kind of mine action activities in Zimbabwe. It is a system which allows GPS mapping, geo data linked photographs and all sorts of other data management options. All of which can be done both off line and online. During the role-play it shows its ease of use and offline capabilities. The off line capability is key because it allows the user to collect information in real time and then at the right time information can be uploaded to be shared by users at all levels. All groups collect evidence while they are trying to figure out what it means in practice to use “All reasonable effort to identify minimal feasible area of Confirmed Hazardous (CHA)”. Helen Gray is convinced this approach to mine action can save lifes by prioritizing resources much more efficiently then the old traditional approach of large areas identified as suspected hazardous, rather then confirmed hazardous. One of the key problems with NTS is to maintain the relationship with the interviewee, and yet to gather the necessary amount of details in order to make informed decisions regarding tasking. Many times during the day the participants are challenged in these discussions but sometimes they get distracted by the technology and loose focus on the people and the actual problem at hand. To get the right and relevant information is challenge of its own and could be compare with the Science of Deduction like the great Sherlock Holmes is so known for. How to know which information is relevant and which is true? How to cross check data?


User friendliness is key for not getting distracted from the essential

The balance to keep good relations with the community and get give full attention is challenged as sometimes they get distracted by the need to get grid references, take pictures, make analysis etc. The DEDUCT demining application reduces this challenge as it enables the user to collect all the evidence that might be relevant and that can be used to finalize the report after reviewing the data and observations made in the field. Back in the classroom in reach of Internet the participants synchronize their observations and share it to all relevant persons and devices. A PDF for each observation, a list of all observation of a certain type in an excel file or a time-based KMZ enables the team to surf through their data on Google earth creating a manageable platform for analysis and conclusions. Areas can be created by connecting relevant waypoints within the offline map during the fieldwork or afterwards. The table of polygons is automatically generated and can be attached to the relevant report. The participants really appreciate the output of DEDUCT because they still have to learn the old way of data collection using handheld GPS and notes for creating their handmade sketch maps. Rabie Aljawashi from Freefields (Jordan) thinks DEDUCT will help him soon in his work and continues “it would make our work much easier”. Also Kyaw from DDG Myanmar thinks it could help him. He has to measure geographic positions in dense vegetation. GPS handheld is far from reliable in these conditions. Kyaw argues that the reliable merge of the GPS measurement and the photo together with the visual control on the map can make it up with the slightly lower accuracy then that of a digital GPS. He thinks it might be much more reliable for those that come back later and have to find the place. He also thinks that the ability easily to apply bearing-distance point can help him to draw the surveyed areas during TS and Clearance. A distance and bearing is much more reliable within a rain forest.

Participants learned many skills over the time and with DEDUCT have had the opportunity to put those skills into practice utilising cutting edge technology. This allows the individual to make the decisions that make the difference in the lives of those affected by mines and unexploded ordnance. It is this capacity to use DEDUCT to reinforce the right choices for the right reasons and to have visibility and quality control of those choices at various management levels that makes it so useful.

Congrats – they did it

Finally congrats to the 22 participants from all over the world. It was nice meeting you. Its great when people from totally different background can have so much fun together.

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