Twenty years ago, MSA Security®, An Allied Universal® Company (MSA), launched a patented state-of-the-art screening technology. SmartTech®, An Allied Universal® Solution, integrates with existing X-ray equipment to provide real-time access to MSA’s experienced bomb technicians 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This instant analysis of any suspicious item in 90 seconds is a game changer in avoiding unnecessary evacuations.
In celebration of 20 years, we visited MSA’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) at their New York City headquarters to sit down with SmartTech® Director Joe Beglane and a few of MSA’s bomb technicians for a quick-fire Q&A on all things SmartTech®. We challenged them for answers in 90 seconds or less.
What are some of the biggest changes in MSA’s EOC over the last 20 years?
Joe Beglane: The volume of calls coming into the EOC has grown substantially. We are currently taking in over 1,000 calls and images to review daily, where just a few years ago that number was 400. We have roughly 1,400 units throughout 55 countries, which keeps us very busy 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
With calls coming in from so many different countries, how do you overcome language barriers?
Joe Beglane: That is another layer of complexity that did not exist for us two decades ago with only a U.S. footprint for SmartTech®. Now that our bomb techs communicate with screeners across the globe, they have the option to utilize a chat platform that does an excellent job providing real-time translation.
What do you see as the top challenge of today’s screeners?
Joe Beglane: Staying current on changing IED presentations amid the increasing volume of daily screened images. With every suspicious call a screener sends into the EOC, our bomb techs strive to make it a learning opportunity. We want them to feel comfortable calling and know that they will gain valuable insight with each incident.
Top tip for screeners today?
Robert Nolan: Never anticipate the image you will see on screen based on the object you see going into the X-ray machine.
Mike Kelly: Always trust your gut. Stay on top of your game by taking advantage of all the tools available to you on the SmartTech® machine and call on the MSA bomb techs anytime the hair on your neck stands up.
Glenn Ostermann: Look for any anomalies. The ways that bad actors try to smuggle in an IED change, but the composition of a bomb remains consistent: P.I.E.S (Power Source, Initiator, Explosive and Switch). It rarely changes. It’s exactly what we teach and why X-ray is critical.
Andrew Eaton: Always think like a bomber.
What’s a challenging or interesting image you’ve seen recently?
Glenn Ostermann: We were requested to check an image that appeared to be a suicide belt. Further review determined it was an inert training aid.
Another recent image showed a dark object that appeared to be a hand grenade. Manipulating the image for better clarity helped us determine the package contained doorknob and lock hardware.
Why did you become a bomb tech?
Andrew Eaton: As a young boy, I watched a TV program about children overseas who were injured or killed by explosive devices and landmines. It made an impact. Today, it is rewarding to know that I can help prevent tragedy using my skills as a bomb tech.
Dennis Grimm: When first with the NYPD as an explosive detection canine handler, I worked alongside members of the NYPD Bomb Squad and it always interested me. I wanted to build on my knowledge of explosive detection and further my role in the security industry by pursing this career path.
What do you enjoy most about what you do here in the EOC?
Robert Nolan: We have great clients all over the world who we’ve really gotten to know. I enjoy interacting with them on a regular basis, helping them to identify X-ray images and grow their knowledge base.
Mike Kelly: It is gratifying to be able to assist screeners in continuing their education in the constantly changing world of IEDs.
Dennis Grimm: I stay on top of my game by continuing to train. Here in the EOC, each day delivers new challenges and the opportunity to continue honing my X-ray interpretation skills so I can be the best resource for our clients.
About our subject matter experts:
Joe Beglane | FBI certified bomb technician, 10 years with MSA Security
NYPD and Nassau County PD law enforcement, Nassau County PD bomb technician
Andrew Eaton | FBI certified bomb technician, 3 years with MSA Security
U.S. Navy and NYPD Bomb Squad
Dennis Grimm | FBI certified bomb technician, 2.5 years with MSA Security
NYPD Bomb Squad
Mike Kelly | FBI certified bomb technician, 13 years with MSA Security
U.S. Navy and NYPD Bomb Squad
Robert Nolan | FBI certified bomb technician, 13 years with MSA Security
U.S. Navy and NYPD ESU / Bomb Squad
Glenn Ostermann | FBI certified bomb technician, 20 years with MSA Security
Bohemia, NY, Fire Department Commissioner and NYPD ESU / Bomb Squad