Explosion in demand for sniffer dogs from RFA Security
Some would argue that the terror threat has never been greater; however few would argue that explosive 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 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.
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 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.”
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 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 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.”
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 and ensure to the best of our ability that it does not happen on our watch.”
Libya and the increased threat
The spectre of terrorism looms large as the conflict continues in Libya; not so long ago Muammar Gaddafi was a notorious state sponsor of terrorism and there are fears that he may revert to this approach in light of the enforcement of a no fly zone.
Tony Foster says: “Cast your minds back to last year and the shocking news that a printer bomb has been hidden in a UPS package and was not detected during an initial examination at East Midlands airport.
“This was a viable bomb and was only found after a tip off. This once again triggered the debate of sniffer dogs versus electronic explosive detection and while there is a role for machinery, clearly time critical logistics such as air freight will surely benefit from highly experienced, trained and vetted explosive detection dog teams from RFA Security as part of the ongoing screening operation.
“The dogs have no agenda and are incredibly flexible, fitting into spaces where man and machinery cannot go and can search large quantities of freight in a very short time. This is vital when time is so important and where safety cannot be compromised.
“Many private airlines are already using sniffer dogs and have recognised that a dog’s nose beats technology in so many ways. Their clients are often reassured to know dogs like those RFA Security can provide are keeping their freight safe and I am sure that in many ways it may increase business for those seen to be taking the threat seriously.
The Freight Transport Association said that every piece of cargo undergoes a form of security before it flies in the UK, from x-ray scanning to sniffer dog inspection and hand searches.
Exclusive partnership means higher standards
RFA Security is exclusively partnered with Vikkas Canine Services Ltd for the provision and training of both dogs and handlers and is the only non-Government client of VCS International.
Owner, former RAF dog handler Gareth Elliott – better known as Gaff – explains why: “RFA is the only private agency we work with simply because we were impressed by their high standards and professional approach, which mirrors our own.
“VCS have been working with dogs and clients since 1997 and from our Training, Kennel and Breeding Facilities in Lincoln UK we provide a wide range of benchmark leading programmes.
“We have the ability to train handlers and dogs to fulfil any canine task. Ranging from arms and explosive search, to combustible accelerants, VCS provides bespoke training services and follow-on operational consultancy to clients around the world.
“We can respond quickly and make immediate and non-politically motivated decisions that are always to the best interest of our clients. We are a flexible training provider who delivers, and we pride ourselves on delivering solutions that embrace client requirements, no matter how diverse or complicated they might be.”
Contacting RFA Security
Head Office: Tel: +44 (0) 1494-513516 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
There is more information on our website: www.rfasecurity.co.uk and we also blog about security issues at www.explosivedetection.wordpress.com and for those using social media we are also @SnifferDogsUK on Twitter and on Facebook you can ‘like’ our page at www.facebook.com/ExplosiveDetectionDogs