K9 handlers and their dogs (Part 4)

(Read Part 1 here: https://dayakdaily.com/k9-handlers-and-their-dogs-part-1/)
(Read Part 2 here: https://dayakdaily.com/k9-handlers-and-their-dogs-part-2/)
(Read Part 3 here: https://dayakdaily.com/k9-handlers-and-their-dogs-part-3/)

By Nancy Nais

THE FIRST batch of Fire and Rescue Department Malaysia (Bomba) K9 detection unit in Sarawak is all set to start their nose work.

For 15 years, there was only one such unit based in Kuala Lumpur to serve the entire country.

Although the unit started its operations in 2003, not many people are aware of their existance, that it is one of the driving mechanisms in the department to assist in performing efficient and fast tracking and rescue works.

With a number of disasters recorded and the need for Search and Rescue (SAR), or missing persons cases steadily increasing in East Malaysia, Sarawak and Sabah finally got their own unit with six dogs each this year.

There are currently 31 K9 dogs for West Malaysia, divided into four disciplines, namely fire investigation (FI), SAR cadaver (CAD), SAR wilderness (WILD) and SAR urban disaster (UD).

Now that the unit is present in Sarawak, Bomba Malaysia’s K9 unit chief fire Supt Donny Chap is optimistic that they will contribute to more success stories for the department.

The United Kingdom (UK) trained dogs who are now at their base in Serian, comprises four English Springer Spaniels named Wilf, Sue, Bella and Cliff, a Border Collie named Daisy, and a Labrador named Bailey.

For Sarawak, these six furry officers will be divided into three disciplines: FI, WILD, and CAD.

Bomba Malaysia’s K9 unit chief Fire Supt Donny Chap with Tipo (Belgian Shepherd trained for Wilderness).

Elaborating on the number of cases, Donny said in 2017, the department received 120 cases involving FI, 32 cases for CAD, 23 case for WILD and two cases for UD.

“FI cases are the highest, so we have 10 dogs in Kuala Lumpur and two each for Sarawak and Sabah. We assist the department in finding the cause of fire, whether it is arson or otherwise. The unit has its own fully equipped forensics department.

“Once the forensics side has determined the cause of fire, an investigation report will be prepared and if is classified as incendiary fire or arson case, it will be handed over to the police for further action,” Donny told DayakDaily.

However, he acknowledged that despite their success in FI, the other three disciplines recorded less cases.

In most cases, when something happens, the K9 unit will only be informed much later, after the initial Bomba team that arrived earlier to evaluate a scene and encountered failure to find the victims.

“Since we only have one unit in Kuala Lumpur, it will take time for us to travel on the road. By the time we reach a scene, precious hours are gone,” Donny explained.

When Bomba director-general Datuk Mohammad Hamdan Wahid suggested the idea of another K9 unit in the northern region for SAR operations, Donny was all for it.

Hamdan said the department will look into it after the recent landslide disaster in Bukit Kukus, Penang last month, whereby they had to bring in the K9 unit from Kuala Lumpur to locate the victims.

On Oct 19, the landslide at a construction site where the Bukit Kukus Paired Road in Paya Terubong was being built brought down 12 containers used to house construction workers and claimed 10 lives.

Members of the K9 team from the Kuala Lumpur unit after the completion of operations for the landslide disaster in Bukit Kukus, Penang last month.

“I fully support and agree to this idea of setting another unit in north West Malaysia. Not only it will benefit the department, we will be able to cover more areas and help hasten SAR, rather than fully relying on the unit in Kuala Lumpur.

“For East Malaysian states, we strongly believe the unit will assist the department to record more successful missions especially in SAR,” he said, adding that this is why it is important to change from low to high success missions.

The K9 unit in Sarawak would be stationed in Serian for deployment across the state.

The SAR mission and WILD disciplines are for tracking individuals in the forest, while the CAD discipline serves to track deceased individuals in rivers and lakes.

Meanwhile, K9 Sarawak’s in-charge Dominic Girai concurred with Hamdan’s suggestion.

He also hopes that the department will consider setting up another unit in Northern Sarawak in the near future.

“We only have six dogs to serve this state and as we are all aware, Sarawak is the size of the whole of West Malaysia. Since we are based in Serian, it will take us approximately 12 hours to travel to Miri by road if there is a case over that side. This will hamper our SAR in reaching the scene as fast as possible,” Dominic said.

K9 Sarawak’s officer-in-charge Dominic Girai checking on Sue (English Springer Spaniel for trained Fire Investigation).

DayakDaily was also made to understand that the Bomba Malaysia K9 Unit is on par with other internationally acclaimed canine teams around the globe and their expertise has also been used as a reference for neighbouring countries.

In humble beginnings, on April, 2002, 30 firefighters and officers (in two batches) attended a one-month-long ‘kennelmen’ course at the Royal Malaysian Police canine unit in Kuala Lumpur.

Later in Sept 2002, 15 firefighters and officers were sent to Chilport Limited Canine Division in Portland, UK for 14 weeks of training.

Speaking with pride and appreciation, Donny said it was these pioneers that brought back what they’ve learnt, applied their knowledge and turned the K9 team into the successful unit it is today.

The unit was also trained by Dog Detectives PLC, NUSAR Dog Teams, UK and the latest, by Vikkas K9 Training School from Lincoln, UK, this year.

So at any given time, the K9 units are ready to send out their furry officers within minutes after the alarm rings in their station.

While Bomba’s true rescue work is often done behind the scenes, their contributions to society should be showcased front and centre. — DayakDaily