Modern technology has paved the way for revolutionary improvements in our personal and professional lives. Today, we hold computers in the palm of our hand, connect virtually with others at a moment’s notice, enjoy instant access to a world-wide web of information, and so much more. Innovation has no doubt advanced every industry, bettering our daily lives. The area of high-consequence threat protection is no exception. Modern access control, CCTV, x-ray and explosive trace detection technologies are critical in keeping people safe from the rising threat of improvised explosive devices and firearms.Yet fifty years ago, as we were getting used to our Sony Walkman, DVRs and the new game of Pong, a very different kind of discovery was underway. A German Shepherd named Brandy and a Labrador named Sally demonstrated their ability to sniff out hidden pipe bombs and dynamite sticks for their handlers, law enforcement officials and members of the press at a New York City police precinct. These dogs were among just a small group receiving explosive detection training as part of a limited‐warfare research program at the University of Mississippi. Three months later, Brandy proved central to a real-world scenario. She indicated on explosive odor from a briefcase on a TWA Boeing 707 at Kennedy International Airport, thwarting a high-profile bomb plot and cementing the power of the canine for security work.
How Canines Stack Up
All these years later, while technology continues to serve as a valuable component of an effective layered security program, industry experts agree that no innovation rivals a properly imprinted and trained canine. In fact, in the early 2000s, the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) spent $19 billion testing a slew of bomb-finding gadgetry – drones, metal detectors, chemical sniffers and super spy drones. Nothing in this arsenal demonstrated more effective than a dog’s nose.
Stepping into the pawprints of Brandy and Sally today are countless canines working throughout the globe, including more than 800 DHS SAFETY Act designated Detection Canine Teams at MSA Security®, An Allied Universal® Company. These skillful scent detectors and their dedicated, single-purpose handlers are hard at work in the places we go every day. At sports and entertainment venues, transportation hubs, landmarks and commercial campuses, canines protect against today’s most pervasive and persistent threats.
Firearms Detection Canines
MSA added Firearms Detection Canine Teams to its full suite of solutions earlier this year to serve as an effective solution for detecting and mitigating the presence of weapons in restricted areas. Let’s take a closer look at how canines prove more versatile and dynamic against technology in some key areas.
Speed and Mobility: Canines will stealthily move through crowds, around obstacles and cover extensive square footage in a short amount of time – all of which occurs with little to no operational disruption. Most screening technology is required to take place at entrances and where crowds assemble, which can create throughput challenges.
Flexibility: Unlike bulky and heavy equipment, canine teams can easily be deployed to various locations within the same day or redirected at a moment’s notice to address changing threat requirements.
Stamina: Detection dogs are at the top of their game and love to work. Their endless energy does not derive from power cords or battery packs, making them always ready to perform in just about any weather condition or circumstance.
Accuracy: Detection canines carry a 50-year track record for accuracy and success. Canines have upwards of a 90% success rate. When a canine alerts – or sits – his handler knows a threat may be present. Even the most advanced technology is subject to false indicators or operator misinterpretation.
Visual Deterrence: Canine teams provide a strong visual deterrent to hostile actors without obstructing everyday operations or visitor experience.
In today’s threat landscape, the safest organizations are active, rigorous and vigilant on security. Proactive and comprehensive assessments will allow security professionals to address evolving threats by adjusting existing processes. The right readiness posture translates into a robust and layered security program that includes experienced personnel, innovative technology and properly trained canine teams.