SPEK-9 provide a range of services. Please click on the icons below to read more information.

Locate Drowned Victims

Drowned Victim Search Dogs or DVSD, is endorsed by the National Search and Rescue Dog Association of the United Kingdom and of Ireland.

Neil has seen service with the Royal Navy and later, was a crew member in the RNLI, whilst John served in the Swedish Marine Corps and Special Forces, therefore, both are very familiar with the sea and boats. They have in this discipline, combined their maritime experience with their love of dogs, to produce a unique method for training the DVSD.

John out at work.

They have each spent more than 20 years, perfecting the technique, and have also worked out the best method for deploying the DVSD on active searches, to give an eventual body location accuracy of some 10 meters.

They have shown in live searches, that by using a DVSD with its remarkable scenting ability, it is possible to effect a significant saving in man hours and therefore cost, during water searches, not to mention the stress reduction for bereaved families, waiting for the return of their lost loved ones.

They can demonstrate that one DVSD, will search an area of water extending to 1 kilometre square in approximately 1hour, with an accuracy of about 90% to 95% in the first sweep, given the vagaries of wind and current. A second sweep will increase even this very high detection rate.

Neil training outside Newcastle.

Neil has seen service with the Royal Navy and later, was a crew member in the RNLI, whilst John served in the Swedish Marine Corps and Special Forces, therefore, both are very familiar with the sea and boats. They have in this discipline, combined their maritime experience with their love of dogs, to produce a unique method for training the DVSD.

The dogs are trained to work from a boat and to search for the scent of decay, whether from an immediate death or one which occurred months before. The scent, having risen to the water surface, is then carried by the wind and when the dog locates it, it will indicate by barking. Clearly, these dogs will also work quite happily on a shore-line or river bank.

Fern scanning the surface.

Neil and John recently conducted a Drowned Victim Search Dog seminar on behalf of the National Search and Rescue Dog Association (NSARDA)of the United Kingdom and of Ireland. The purpose of the seminar was to introduce delegates to the complexities of this highly specialised work and to raise awareness of just how effective a DVSD can be. The course was so well received by all who attended, that NSARDA have requested that they produce a set of training and assessment standards which will then become the benchmark for future DVSD handlers. These standards have now been presented and accepted by the National body.

The follow up to the initial DVSD course is planned to take place in Stockholm in autumn 2008 and will introduce participants to the initial training stages and search strategies.

On 16th March, 2008, Fern located the body of a man, who had drowned in the River Boyne at Navan, County Meath. Divers later recovered the man at a point 50 metres up stream from the place indicated by Fern.

During the Easter holidays, 2007, Fern located the bodies of two teenagers who had drowned in Castlewellan Lake, County Down. The bodies, were recovered 10 feet from the marker buoy which had been placed by members of the NI Fire Rescue Service at the point located by Fern.

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Locate Illegal Drugs/DVDs/CDs

Drugs Detection

SPEK-9 is one of a very small number of companies in Ireland, which has been issued a licence to hold quantities of class A drugs for the purpose of training drugs detection dogs. In a previous company, NARCO Dogs, Neil trained and operated drugs detection dogs, to work in the big night clubs of N Ireland.

Here we see a Springer spaniel which is giving a freeze indication on a box which contains concealed drugs..

Protection of patrons using night clubs, must be the primary consideration of management and this is where a drugs detection dog plays such a vital part. The dogs are trained to indicate passively, when they locate concealed drugs, whereupon, the protocols already put in place by the management of a night club, will then be followed by door-staff.

Another Springer spaniel doing some training.

The dogs are trained to search people whom they will scan as they pass by, or to check the premises for hidden drugs, before or after an event.

Some premises are struggling to have their operating licence renewed each year, because of the clandestine operations of drug pushers and drugs users. The employment of a specialist drugs dog team, will be a very potent reason to offer the authorities, as evidence of an intent to stamp out the problem.

DVD Detection

In 2005, Neil Powell was asked to conduct a feasibility study on behalf of the Motion Picture Association of America, to determine whether dogs could be trained to locate optical discs, (DVDs). This was prompted by the huge financial losses sustained by the Motion Picture Industry, due to piracy of their products.

Neil’s first task was to select two suitable dogs, a search which eventually led him to Lucky and Flo, chosen for their excellent play and hunt drives.

The initial training stages involved determining whether there was an odour from optical discs, which could be detected by a dog. This took some experimentation but eventually it became clear that it was possible for the two dogs to locate optical discs.

After further intensive training, the dogs were each tested at a large warehouse in Belfast where they were set the task of locating a number of packages containing DVDs, hidden among thousands of other packages. This they did with ease and so become the first dogs in the world to have been trained to detect optical discs.

After this, they together with their trainer, were brought to Heathrow and to Stanstead airports, where they were to continue their investigative and demonstration work. HM Customs and Excise were present at all of these demonstrations and were won over by the speed and accuracy of the two dogs as they went about their work.

Neil seen here with Lucky during a demonstration at Stanstead Airport for HM Customs and Excise Officers.

Neil and the dogs were then flown to Los Angeles, where they did a series of televison and newspaper interviews and demonstrations for police and customs officials who had gathered from around the world.The demonstrations were conducted at various locations but included Warner Brothers Studios and the studios of Walt Disney.

They then flew to Wasington DC where they were involved in further demonstrations and interviews, all of them live, some in studios and others out on the streets of the City.

The dogs were soon to become celebrities and Flo is seen here in front of the CNN studios having done a live demonstration.

Next came Hong Kong. Then on to Dubai, Toronto and New York where the dogs, despite hours of flying and the trauma of having to stay in boarding kennels often in intense heat, performed impeccably.

While in Hong Kong, the dogs were put through their paces at the Customs and Excise Training School. Here, again in front of television and Press, they demonstrated just how good they were at their job, closely observed by Customs officers and Police.

Neil with Lucky and Flow in a Newpaper in Hong Kong.

Back again to the States, where in New York, accompanied by officers of NYPD, they conducted live searches in the Queens District of New York and in China Town. The searches unearthed large consignments of illegal dvds hidden among boxes and packages in large store rooms.

Neil with John Malcolm, Head of the MPAA’s Worldwide Anti-Piracy Unit, and Lucky and Flo in New York.

Also shown above are members of the NYPD prior to going out on an illegal optical disc copying bust in China Town.

Lucky and Flo were next deployed to Malaysia, where, after they had successfully located millions of hidden discs and their burning equipment in hidden locations, they became the targets of a death threat by the criminal gangs. The two were spirited back to Ireland for a well-earned rest and Neil was then invited to train two more DVD sniffing dogs to continue the fight.

Manny and Paddy, were the second pair of dogs in the world, to have been trained to locate optical discs. Sadly, Manny, died under mysterious circumstances after starting work in Malaysia. It is assumed he had been killed by the criminal gangs who make huge profits from DVD piracy.

There also has been a write up on Neil and the dogs on the Wired Blog Network, to see it click here.

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Mountain Rescue

As an ex- member of the Swedish Special Forces, John is very experienced in survival and rescue techniques, having spent a great deal of time in the severe winter conditions found in the forests and uplands of Sweden. He also had responsibility within the service, for developing a very special unit of search dogs to enhance the Special Operations detection rate of enemy infiltration by land and sea.

Sweden has a long history of excellence in dog training, both military and civilian and it was from the Swedish Working Dog Club, that John was awarded the titles of trainer and assessor for wilderness and collapsed structure search work.

John in the Swedish Special Forces.

John currently runs survival course for students from all over Europe, using the valuable training he received whilst serving with the Swedish Special Forces.

Neil, was a member of a mountain rescue team in n Ireland, for 30 years, during which time he was deputy leader for 5 years and then became leader for his final 15 years . He introduced search and rescue dogs to Ireland in the mid 70s and has been a mountain search dog handler until recently. He is now training officer for SARDA (Ireland North) which specialises in mountain, collapsed structure and water searching dogs. He is also an external assessor of mountain search dogs, for the National Search and Rescue Dog Association.

Soon after being qualified as a mountain rescue search dog, Kim, Neil’s first dog, located a person who had been lost for many hours in the Mourne Mountains.

Neil with his first dog, Kim.

His next dog Pepper, as well as searching for body parts at the Lockerbie air disaster for five days, went on to find some 16 people lost in the mountains of Ireland, during his working life.

Then came a golden Labrador, Dylan, who eventually was awarded the PDSA Gold Medal for his work in mountain rescue incidents, where he found five lost people, and later, in a Turkish earthquake where he located three people alive under the rubble. Now, at 14 years of age, Dylan is enjoying his well deserved retirement. (Cracker, also seen here, was awarded the Gold medal for his work in collapsed structures in one of the Turkish earthquakes.)

Cracker and Dylan recieving their Gold Medal.

Training the mountain rescue search dog is a painstaking, slow process, because a dog may be asked to work, many long hours during any one deployment. The dogs have to be very fit, highly motivated and quite familiar with working on steep ground, in conditions of snow, heavy rain, darkness. There is also an additional problem for mountain search dogs in the UK and Ireland of sheep, which seem to have an uncanny ability to be grazing in the search areas. The dogs have to be able to ignore sheep completely.

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Search Collapsed Structures

Neil and John have both spent many years training dogs to locate people who have become trapped and buried in collapsed structures. The United Kingdom Fire and Rescue Service provide a team which will travel anywhere in the world to the site of an earthquake or other major disaster. Neil is part of that team and has responded to four major earthquakes in different parts of the world, Turkey twice, Algeria and Kashmir. Sweden too provides search and rescue teams to world disasters and like Neil, John has been part of that commitment.

Neil and Cracker in a rescue operation in Turkey.

The Northern Ireland Fire and rescue Service Urban Search and Rescue Team, use two dogs, Charco and Sammy, trained by Neil, when searching a collapsed structure for trapped persons.

Collapsed structure dog training is a particularly hazardous activity because of the obvious risks associated with it. Therefore, not only does the dog need very specialised training, but the handler too needs to become very familiar with the precautions needed to work safely I such a hazardous environment.

Neil making a dynamic risk Assessment.

SPEK-9 Services will provide training for handlers and dogs which will bring them up to the standard currently used in the UK and Ireland, for collapsed structure dogs and handlers. It is a standard which is approved by the National Urban Search and Rescue Dog Groups and by the United Kingdom Fire and Rescue Service Urban Search and Rescue Dog Teams.

Neil with UK Fire and Rescue Service.

Courses will include everything from getting the dog to speak on command, teaching the basic find sequence, agility work for the dogs, scent theory, search training in collapsed structure, rubble piles and darkened rooms, structural triage and the INSARAG marking systems, personal protection equipment recommendations and preparation for the search dog assessment.

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Locate Explosives

Neil was trained as an explosives dog handler by an ex Home Office examiner/instructor of police dogs and by military instructors. His dog, Charco, was trained to locate a number of different substances, giving a passive sit indication on finding them.

Neil and Charco with ex Home Office examiner/instructor of police dogs and military instructors.

Charco and Neil were deployed to work as an explosives detection dog team over a number of years in London, at such venues as, the Dome (O2), Canary Wharf, and Lords cricket ground.

The 02 in London.

Neil, working for other specialist dog training companies in the UK, has selected and trained dozens of explosives search dogs which have been exported to Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Iraq.

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Mine Detection

More information coming soon…

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Fire Investigation Dogs

With the guidance of the UK’s leading Fire Investigation dog trainers, Neil has trained one dog to investigate fire accelerants , a young black Labrador called Jolly, which was commissioned by an Italian company, Torre Fire and K-9 Response group in Bologna.

After 12 weeks of intensive training, Jolly was assessed according to the, “UK Fire Investigation Dog and Handler Teams, Guide to Best Practice”, by an ex London Fire Service, Fire Investigation Officer. Having passed with flying colours, Jolly was very soon transported to his new, adoptive country, where he has been working hard ever since.

During assessment, Jolly was asked to demonstrate his ability to detect and accurately indicate, the following liquid accelerants, in quantities ranging from 10ul to 250ml:

  • Light petroleum distillates (LPD)
  • Gasolines
  • Medium petroleum distillates (MDP)
  • Kerosene
  • Heavy petroleum distillates (HDP)

  • Some of these had been added to combustible material, set on fire and allowed to cool down and then used as part of the test. Others were added in tiny quantities, to combustible materials after they had been burned and cooled.

    Like all specialist dog training, the Fire Investigation dog training has to be methodical, full of fun for the dog and very thorough. The secret is in the timing of the delivery and in maintaining a very strict regime in not cross contaminating whilst setting out the hides.

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