Joe Beglane

Strength comes from brushing up on the basics and regular exposure to the wide variety of images and evolving threat presentations. Screeners at MSA Security® client sites throughout the globe benefit from a regular workout opportunity when connecting with experienced bomb technicians through the company’s SmartTech® technology.


In the MSA Security® Emergency Operations Center (EOC) in New York City, MSA experienced bomb technicians communicate with screeners 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The company’s patented SmartTech® solution integrates with existing X-ray equipment and provides real-time access to trained eyes. There are more than 1,000 calls and images coming into the EOC daily for review. That volume and variety provide comprehensive and valuable intel. MSA bomb techs leverage that intel and their experience to make every incoming suspicious call a learning opportunity for the screener.


Current X-ray Screener Challenges

Think of all the many consumer and commercial products that are mailing throughout the world every day. The majority are subject to security X-ray screening and many innocuous objects can present as suspicious. Here are a few examples landing in MSA’s EOC in recent months:


Suspicious image scannedThis package sent to MSA’s EOC for review was addressed to the CEO of a large international food and beverage company. The X-rayActual scanned item; audio photo frame screener was correctly concerned that the item carried all the visual elements of “PIES”. MSA bomb techs determined that the item was an audio picture frame and successfully cleared the suspicious item with virtually no operational impact.




Image resembling ammunitionWhen screeners viewed this X-ray image, they immediately were concerned the package could contain rifle ammunition. The cartridge was consistent with a real rifle round and the screeners sent the image into MSA’s EOC for immediate evaluation. ShapeX-ray image of actual rife round and material were also consistent (blue depicts metal) with a real round. The difference, MSA bomb techs determined, was in the X-ray portion that indicated the projectile. The projectile should be depicted as a necessary dense (blue to black) material in order to penetrate its target. This is the X-ray image of an actual rifle round.


MSA subject matter experts cleared the item and identified it as “bullet” Actual scanned item; lipstick lipstick due to the organic non-dense material that made up the projectile portion.


As terrorists continue to evolve their tradecraft to avoid detection, it is important that screenersUSB filled with explosive appears cloudy, borderless and less definedNormal USB X-ray image appears clear, precise and well defined consider that all items are capable of being an actual threat. Earlier this year, an Ecuadorian journalist was injured in when plugging in a USB device he received in the mail into his computer. While this image did not come through SmartTech® to MSA’s EOC team, it is a real-world example of the latest threat. The device was one of several targeting the country’s media and carried military-type explosive material. These everyday data devices are small and therefore difficult to interpret by a security X-ray image. Although minimal amounts of explosive material can be contained within the small device, it still poses a major threat if undetected. When scanning incoming mail, ensure that all electronics contained in envelopes or small boxes are enhanced with high-sensitivity and zoom capabilities.


These are just three of the thousands of situational examples screeners are presented with regularly. It is imperative for screeners to stay in top shape and always continue their education in the ever-changing world of IEDs.

Learn more about MSA’s SmartTech® here and subscribe to the MSA blog which covers trends in terrorism, explosive screening and detection and many other timely topics to address high-consequence threats.

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