Justin Kelley

Earlier this month in New York, the Geneva Police Department public safety building was on lockdown for hours following the discovery of a suspicious package in the mail. Monroe County Bomb Squad ultimately determined the explosive device was an inert grenade incapable of an explosion. This is just one of the thousands of suspicious package incidents reported throughout the country annually.

According to the most recent U.S. Bomb Data Center Explosives Incident Report, a total of 4,935 suspicious package incidents were reported in the country during 2021, or roughly 13 daily. This is a 25% increase over 2020 incidents. Last year, the U.S. saw nearly 1,900 bomb threat incidents, which was more than double the 818 incidents reported in 2020 and the highest in five years.

Our September blog highlighted the importance of a comprehensive and layered security posture, noting that the most successful plans are a combination of technology, human and canine elements. We examined several deployment areas where MSA Security’s Firearms Detection Canine Teams were successfully mitigating threats. In this blog, we will look at those environments and assess how advanced X-ray technology combined with subject matter expertise addresses threats and vulnerabilities in other areas of a security program.

The Advantage of X-ray Screening + Trained Eyes

To maximize screening effectiveness, X-ray screening is essential and highly trained eyes are required for interpretation. Experienced bomb technicians can identify the ever-evolving nuances in a potential explosive device, or concealed weapon, as captured by X-ray images. This solution is delivered at scale by MSA Security®, An Allied Universal® Company, through its Emergency Operations Center and patented SmartTech® technology. This unique solution enhances screening effectiveness at lobbies, checkpoints, loading docks and other areas of a facility to reinforce the success of security programs. Let’s look at some common areas where SmartTech® is often leveraged to maximize screener success.

Commercial Buildings and Offices

Common vulnerabilities within this threat environment include mailrooms, loading docks and primary entrance perimeters, where there is a high level of daily activity. Loading docks and other shipping and receiving areas are a potential vulnerability that can be exploited by bad actors. Organizations, particularly those with publicly recognizable brands and personnel, must take measures to ensure the safety of persons receiving mail and deliveries by implementing a robust screening process with properly trained personnel. X-ray screening is essential for packages and mail.

Stadiums and Arenas

In addition to sports, these facilities host various events like concerts, religious gatherings or political conventions and remain a high target for terrorist activity. With each new performance at a venue, massive quantities of staging equipment are delivered by a brand-new team of personnel who are often unknown to the venue. This equipment, just like performers, staff and patrons, must be subject to comprehensive screening. At any stage of transportation prior to delivery, a dangerous item may be secreted into the shipment. And while these areas of public assembly range in size and prominence, all are potential targets.

Landmarks and Transit

In high-trafficked, high-profile tourist and transportation sites, screening at access points should include patron screening with magnetometers or similar equipment, along with robust bag screening using X-ray machines. Unfortunately, X-ray screening is often replaced with individual bag searches completed by security guards. Vulnerability percentages increase with cursory or expedited bag searches that are utilized to move a long line through checkpoints. The integrity of the screening process must be maintained while simultaneously minimizing any disruption to operational flow. This objective is best addressed using SmartTech®, which provides on-site screeners with instant access to an experienced bomb technician at the touch of a button, and resolution in an average of 90 seconds or less.

Retail Stores and Malls

Shopping areas throughout the country are prime targets for terrorism. While security in these facilities rightfully focuses on patron screening, it is important not to overlook potential vulnerabilities in shipping and deliveries. Retail deliveries occur en masse and create opportunities for hostile actors to hide an IED, weapons or other dangerous contraband. With a significant workforce turnover, the quality of screening for such items can be compromised. X-ray screening is critical to ensure all mail and packages are free from these threats.

Cargo and Shipping Facilities

Thorough X-ray screening is a necessary security program component required to mitigate the consistent risk of IEDs, weapons and incendiary devices being placed within cargo shipments. As goods travel through global and domestic transportation hubs, they remain susceptible to bad actors.

Current supply chain delays have resulted in an increasing volume of cargo at rest – large shipments that sit idle and often unattended. This leads to a greater vulnerability for tampering and smuggling dangerous items and underscores the importance of ongoing risk assessment and proper screening.

SmartTech® is a force multiplier in helping ensure a more secure supply chain. Whether the goods are shipped ground, rail or air, there are enormous operational benefits gained from a screening technology that provides real-time diagnostics from experts in the field.

More than 1,000 SmartTech® units are utilized across more than 40 states and 50 countries at high-volume facilities and businesses. These organizations know that an unnecessary evacuation of just a few hours can lead to significant expense and loss of reputation. The right tools in combination with qualified subject matter experts are key to enhancing operational efficiencies, protecting people and assets, and minimizing business disruption.


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