Brief

The current Optima Battle Area Clearance Team has been operational in Fallujah since April 2017. The team conducts operations in areas assessed to be lower threat, specifically those known to be contaminated with conventional munitions as opposed to Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs). By clearing these explosive threats, the BAC team allows subsequent reconstruction and redevelopment efforts to commence. Tasks at locations such as schools, health centres, and power and water supply infrastructure currently take priority for the team.

Solution

Threat and Impact Assessments (TIA) within Fallujah city and the immediate outlying areas provide a detailed picture of the explosive hazards remaining post-conflict. As well as technical data regarding the hazards themselves, the TIA provides information on their effect on the local population, commerce, building and infrastructure repairs, and the flow of returnees back into Fallujah. All of this provides an insight regarding the overall day-to-day normalisation of the city.

Priority tasks are issued to the Optima BAC team - the current priority is the survey and clearance of schools within the Fallujah district. School sites are systematically surveyed to determine the levels and nature of explosive hazards in the immediate area. Any remaining school staff will be interviewed to establish the history of the area pre- and post-conflict. This will include details of known explosive hazards and whether risk education has previously been delivered to the local population. The team can then establish what work is required to render the schools clear and allow the safe return of children and teachers.

Outcomes

TIAs have been conducted across many areas of Fallujah and a range of explosive hazards, including both conventional munitions and IEDs, have been identified. Whilst IEDs are dealt with by Optima’s High Threat teams, the clearance of conventional munition threats requires BAC teams to provide direct support and liaison to Iraq Security Forces EOD specialists. The safe disposal of explosive hazards and large scale area clearance provides assurance for the returning people and contributes to the overarching normalisation effort.

The presence of teams conducting TIAs presents local people with an approachable face with which they can discuss explosive hazard issues affecting their own community. Many team members originate from the local areas and thereby present a sense of self help within the community.

In the past six weeks alone, TIAs have located over 80 items that will require clearance within Fallujah city. Once clear, repair and reconstruction efforts can continue, allowing for the safe return of hundreds of families to their homes.

Once the school clearance projects have been completed, over 2,000 staff members will be able to return to work and tens of thousands of children can restart formal education within their own communities.

Summary

Optima's Battle Area Clearance Teams are a vital part of the plans to return Fallujah to a pre-conflict state of normality.

The clearance of explosive hazards allows families to return to their homes and reconstruction efforts to commence.

Image: Explosive hazards marked by an Optima BAC team.