Someone will be reported missing every 90 seconds in the UK
Hampshire Search & Rescue Dogs is a voluntary organisation that provides nationally qualified search dog teams to support emergency services when looking for vulnerable missing people. Like so many volunteer organisations we receive no Government funding so we rely entirely on donations and sponsorship to keep the team operational.
All our members are 100% volunteers meaning we receive no pay or money towards expenses. We train twice a week and are on call 24/7 to assist the emergency services in Hampshire and, when necessary, to support the search teams of neighbouring counties.
All funds raised go towards providing search equipment, appropriate clothing and the running of the team.
To support our dog team we also have a fully qualified water rescue team and RPAS drone pilots so that we can access every square inch of a designated search area.
Note: All images below are from training
How We Work
We train our dogs twice a week. Our support volunteers will hide for our dog and handler to locate, by air scenting, supported by a technician who will lead on navigation and communications. A trainee dog will, after a minimum of 18 months training, be assessed to a national standard for hasty searches – the test being to locate up to 3 missing people in 60 minutes over a 2km route.
Missing people often follow a set route and may be located up to 25m either side of a path.
A dog can then go on to train as an area search dog. The national standard of assessment is to locate up to 3 missing persons over a 50 acre site in 90 minutes. An area dog will work into or across the wind to cover the area in sweeps of between 50 and 100 metres (depending on the dog).
The dogs are trained to pick up on any human air scent so naturally are more effective in less populated areas.
Training is centred very much on a toy reward; the dog is rewarded for each exercise as it develops the different skills to complete a search. When fully qualified, the dog will range with minimal direction from the handler, alert the handler when it has found a casualty and not expect the reward until it has led the handler directly to the missing person.
Our search technicians and handlers are also fully qualified to a national standard covering areas such as search techniques, first aid, communications, navigation, protection of crime scene, water awareness, child protection and dog welfare.
Operational call outs
Those of you who watched the BBC series ‘Reported Missing’ will know that the police carry out essential research and planning before hitting the ground on a search. If they conclude that the missing person is ‘vulnerable’ and the area they are focused on is not heavily populated and therefore suitable for a dog search they will call us out to assist. This can be any time of the night or day and it is not unknown for our team to return from a call out around dawn.
In practice the vast majority of our searches involve adults with mental health issues (8 in 10) or dementia (1 in 10).
On reporting to the officer in charge, the dog team will be allocated an area (or route) to search and will liaise closely with the control unit as the search progresses. Even where we conclude the search without locating the missing person, this is still an important step for the police who are able to eliminate that area from future searches.
77% of missing adults are usually located within the first 24 hours and 87% within 2 days of going missing.
So far in 2018, we have been called out 85 times – a record for our team.
The Team and how you can help
We currently have just over a dozen active members in our team. Four qualified dog handlers, four further dogs in training with their handlers and a number of qualified technicians to support on call outs.
We are always looking to welcome new members although it needs to be said that it is a huge commitment. It takes up to a year before you become operational and probably another 18 months to become operational with your dog. Even then, making yourself available 24/7, 365 days a year is a big ask but the rewards are considerable.
For others, just by helping us out on training and fundraising, you are playing a crucial role on the operation on the team. Without people acting as bodies for the dogs to find, we simply could not train and refine our skills. Without fundraising, we simply could not exist.
If you feel you would like to help, you can contact us by email: secretary@HSARDogs.org.uk.
Alternatively you can DONATE or you can nominate us as your designated charity on AMAZON. or simply follow us on social media.
Amazon: Follow the Amazon link to donate