Specialist Security Detection Dogs

Terror Threat. Explosion in demand for Sniffer Dogs

Some would argue that the terror threat has never been greater; however few would argue that sniffer dogs are now an essential part of the first line of defence against determined terrorists.

We are familiar with bomb detection dogs being used  to thwart any Terror Threat and utilised in Afghanistan and Iraq, however now, more than ever before, these specialist dogs are now being used in the UK and one company is at the forefront of this war against terror.

Established in 1996 RFA Security have been supplying full time, in house, explosive detection dog teams since 2005 and these teams are working everywhere from the Palace of Westminster filtration facilities, City finance houses and blue chip companies, through to sporting venues and freight services.

Terror Threat Tony Foster is one of the partners who founded RFA Security and he explains why a dog really is man’s best friend: “For all the advances in science it remains that man’s best friend is also man’s best defence against those who seek to use explosive devices to make their point. Our highly trained explosive detection dogs have no agenda, cannot be corrupted and live to please their handler by searching for traces of explosives.

“Our dogs are trained to the exacting standards of the RAF Police, complimented by NASDU – the National Association of Security Dog Users and the BSI, under BS: 8571-2: 2010  and we are licensed by the Metropolitan Police for the use/storage of explosives as we use live explosives to train our dogs.

“The standards are important as demand increases for specialist sniffer dogs such as those here at RFA Security. Less reputable operators claim to be ‘Home Office Licensed‘, which sounds impressive. Unfortunately for them, the Home Office does not licence or assess commercial civilian explosive search teams for their operational competency, nor does ACPO.  So any company declaring or intimating that they are licensed by the Home Office or ACPO are, to be blunt, attempting to deceive the client.  This is no time to cut corners or make false claims.

“When you contact RFA Security we respond quickly and will despatch an experienced and well trained member of our team to carry out a survey to confirm the level of support you require from our sniffer dog teams, or indeed more traditional Guard Dog patrols which we can also supply.

“Once we know what is needed we can refine our training for both sniffer dog and handler for your business and will provide the necessary teams as quickly as possible to ensure the protection you need is in place.”

Sniffer dogs in demand

New clients often increase the level of support offered by RFA Security after realising the benefits that having highly trained sniffer dogs and their handlers on the premises.

Explosives Search Manager, Nic Atterton explained: “Recently we were awarded a contract with a major finance house in the City. Initially we were tasked to provide an explosive sniffer dog team two days a week and already we have been asked to expand the service in the near future.

“People feel safe with the teams visiting the offices, however more importantly it acts as a major deterrent. Imagine how a terrorist feels when they see a dog and handler on site?

While the increase of companies minimising their risks of terror threat through using RFA Security’s explosive sniffer dogs means that more and more businesses are going to be safe, it does mean other organisations need to revisit their risk assessments.

Nic Atterton again: “Clearly we know that terrorists prefer a soft target; they prefer to minimise their own exposure and encountering one of our teams, and most crucially one of our dogs is not something they want to do. Consequently they avoid such hardened targets and look for the soft option.

“This means businesses that may have considered themselves not at risk from a terror threat may actually be considered by terrorists who find their first choice too difficult.

Protecting the Houses of Parliament

Guy Fawkes may have been thwarted in his attempt to blow up the House of Lords in 1605 by an anonymous tip off, but clearly vigilance and prevention is the order of the day amid myriad threats against the UK Government.

Naturally sniffer dogs are an essential part of this mix and RFA Security is proud to have been contracted to provide explosive detection teams for the Palace of Westminster’s filtration facilities.

Tony Foster explained: “RFA is contracted via a third party to supply our explosive detection dog service to these filtration facilities operated by the  Palace of Westminster, specifically the House of Lords and House of Commons.

As you would expect RFA as a company, its Managers and deployed staff, are all vetted by security departments within HM Government, on behalf of the Palace of Westminster.

“We take pride in the calibre of our staff at RFA and are confident of their integrity, yet it is rewarding to be subject to this higher level of vetting too. I think it gives peace of mind to all our clients to know we are protecting the Palace of Westminster and they can expect the same level of service.

“Also, it is worth mentioning that we employ all our handlers and own all our dogs. That may sound obvious, but clients value the integrity that brings and do not like it when they have a different sub contractor each day. With RFA Security you are guaranteed to get the highest calibre handler and dog.”

Diverse deployment
While Westminster and high profile finance houses might be obvious locations for deploying explosive detection dogs, there are a host of other occasions when they are being used.

“Exhibitions and arena type events create a demand,” explained Nic Atterton. “Depending on the event or client the risk may be greater and we can clear a venue before it is opened to the public and can also provide passive patrols where the dog screens everyone as they pass through the entrances and will signal anything suspicious. Naturally this has a deterrent effect.

“Sports stadiums are another key venue where dogs like ours can be useful and most of the Premiership sides will deploy sniffer dogs to ensure public safety.

“Hotels ahead of the arrival of important or vulnerable guests are another area we can work in and we could also be called in to screen buildings before a company or family take up occupancy, recognising the premises may have been targeted before they move in.

“Sadly terrorists are devious and always looking for the soft option. It is our job to be one step ahead of any terror threat and ensure to the best of our ability that it does not happen on our watch.”


Sniffer Dog and Suspicious Packages

Sniffer Dogs.  To act or not to act? Think, if my area of responsibility is shut down due to a suspicious package or incident, what will the knock on effects be? Trading floors closed? Retail outlets closed? Sporting Events cancelled? Core business suspended?

Are Sniffer dogs at the front of your mind and what drives the blue light response will be the safety of your staff and any public who may use your facilities, but what will the financial cost be? For a shopping centre, retailers could lose thousands in lost revenue and trading floor closure could be far more damaging financially. Then, after possibly several hours, the blue light response teams declare the incident a false alarm, albeit reported with good intent. Ouch!


Sniffer DogsIslamic state, by whatever name, is “reaching out” over increasing geographical territory and it’s not to have a chin wag and a cup of tea! Budget cuts to law enforcement, reduction in services, a Border Force under pressure and an almost daily increase in the number of “refugees” entering Europe is placing pressure on our ability to protect what we value. The latest report from Europol “Changes in modus operandi of Islamic State terrorist attacks” dated 18th January 2016, together with regular pieces from papers such as The Telegraph are not to be ignored.


This is a problem that effects our whole society, not just within the commercial world or infrastructure, but what do we do about it?

There are as many ways of looking at remedies as there are threats, so some thought must be applied. The cost of implementing measures v the results of those measures would be a good start.

One tool in the armoury of protective measures is the ability to have a suspect object, whether accidentally discarded by the public, staff or delivered by courier, quickly checked by Sniffer Dogs or as we prefer to call them Explosives Detection Dogs, (EDD). Users of this service take the view that the financial outlay is far outweighed by the ability to confirm if the reported threat needs to be escalated or not. If the threat has substance, (an indication from the Sniffer Dog), then action plans are put into motion. If not, then normality can resume with the minimum of disruption whilst having ensured that staff and public are protected fully within their corporate responsibilities. Look at it as an insurance policy, with a win win result.

Sniffer dogSniffer Dogs teams are used for mail & cargo screening, vehicle search, aircraft search, area search, Football and other sporting stadiums, goods in screening and under specifically controlled circumstances, the screening of people & hand held belongings. Dependant on client requirements, they can be deployed in an overt posture, (highly visible to reassure staff & the public that the client takes their safety & wellbeing seriously and to be seen during any hostile reconnaissance resulting in the deflection of any attack) or covertly.

Either way, if you have an Sniffer dog team deployed, you can rest assured that you have done your best and cannot be found wanting.

So, what is an EDD team? Most people think of “bomb” dogs as cute spaniels, (fluffies as the Marines call them) or Labradors which, to some extent is true due to UK public perception of search dogs. Explosive Detection Dogs undergo many hours of training with the handler resulting in the canine being able to indicate to the handler a variety of explosive scent “pictures”.

Bomb Dogs should be able to indicate on amounts of substance as small as 1 gram or less to large amounts of 15 kilos or more. However, a fully trained sniffer dog can only indicate if a scent is detectable to the dog. Training is to ACPO, (now known as NPCC) & DAC, (Defence Animal Centre) standards via BS 7517-2: 2010 Code of practice for the use of detection dogs. BS 7517-2 is available for any client or potential client to read and allows potential users to understand the minimum requirements of an EDD team & ask the right questions when sourcing an EDD service. It also provides an end user the ability to comply with their audit requirements & due diligence needs. Competent EDD service providers will be ISO inspected by one of the following, BSI, NSI, SSAIB, CCSA & ISOQAR. Continuation Training must be completed by a certified trainer at least monthly and recorded. An annual certification test must be completed and recorded.

A competent Sniffer Dog service provider will provide training, continuation training and annual certification records together with insurance details and should be pleased to allow any potential client, or existing client to visit the kennels to complete due diligence checks. Some providers, via the local Police Force, will also arrange for a long term client to have their own dedicated training aid store. A few providers will have handlers certified with two dogs allowing more search, or harness time per handler thus reducing cost. It also provides comfort to the client in that if one dog becomes non-operational for any reason, the service can still be provided, albeit with one animal.

EDD teams are vastly more cost effective & versatile than in house portable detection machines, although X-ray and imaging machines play an important role in the ring of protection they cannot be moved to the suspect object. An EDD team, during a shift, can visit a number of locations within a campus resulting in multiple search venues & value for money.

Now the question! To act or not to act? To use Sniffer Dogs or not to use sniffer dogs? That is down to you and your employer but be assured that a competent EDD team is a valuable, flexible & cost effective addition to your protection package.




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