On the Scene at GSX: Canine teams add mobility, versatility to security programs

Sept. 12, 2022
MSA Security to showcase explosives and firearm detection

Although technology certainly is booming in the security industry, and updates and iterations of products constantly roll out, the demand for highly trained canine units that use their olfactory senses and intuition still hasn’t waned.

In fact, the versatility and mobility of canine units can be an invaluable asset for a robust security program.

In a world of evolving risk, the ability of security professionals to quickly identify threats is essential. This means early identification of an armed threat actor at a sporting venue or school campus, because it can provide security leaders valuable time to intervene and help them to prevent violence before it begins.

MSA Security, an Allied Universal company, is showcasing explosives- and firearm-detecting canines at GSX 2022. MSA Security uses highly trained canines to help to detect and mitigate explosive and active shooter threats for venues, landmarks, commercial real estate properties, cargo sites and government clients in the U.S. and internationally.

The company’s specially bred sporting and herding canines are paired with expert handlers who have military or law enforcement experience. Together, the teams can identify firearms and explosives accurately and efficiently.

Canine Advantages

In comparison with technology-based weapons-detection systems, canines provide advantages in these ways, the company says:

  • Mobility: Canines and handlers can move throughout a site at will, while technology systems must remain stationary.
  • Functionality: Canines can continue to detect threats even during adverse weather conditions, such as heat, snow or rain — unlike technology systems.
  • Accuracy: MSA Security’s Canines have an accuracy rate of 93–99%, whereas technology systems’ results are variable based on numerous circumstances, the company says.

In the early 2000s, the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) spent $19 billion to test a slew of bomb-finding gadgetry — drones, metal detectors, chemical sniffers and super spy drones. Nothing in that arsenal demonstrated more efficacy than a dog’s nose, says Glen Kucera, CEO of MSA Security.

“They want to please their master, and they want to do whatever it takes to get the reward, so we can train them on narcotics; we can train them on firearms; and we can train them on explosives,” he says. “Just the capacity of the K-9 olfactory sense is so outstanding. But it's also the mobility.

“With every other part of detection, whether it’s a firearm or explosive, you have to bring the item to the machine. A dog can go anywhere, and that's the key.”

Kucera says canine detection teams work great for a layered security approach when security leaders try to push an assailant or somebody who’s trying to deliver harm away from the people.

“So, usually, if you look at security protocols — for example, with major sporting events — we have armed guards on the inside, and we have canines on the outside,” he says.

“What you want to do is make sure if somebody has an explosive or a firearm, you push that person away from the public. People walk by, and the canines are moving through the crowd. People like dogs being around them, and at the same time, we’re checking them out for explosives and firearms.

“So, by putting them on the perimeter, you’re keeping harm away from the ballpark before the assailant gets closer to the venue.”

A new tool

In recent years, security leaders have seen an increase in active-shooter incidents, particularly in highly trafficked, accessible sites, such as malls, hospitals, entertainment venues and schools.

In response, MSA Security in 2022 announced an exclusive agreement with Shallow Creek Kennels to train the company’s canines in firearms detection. The company says this capability enhances existing threat-detection offerings, which creates a new solution to address the escalating active-shooter and criminal threats.

MSA has more than 800 DHS SAFETY Act-designated teams deployed around the world that can detect a full range of commercial and homemade explosives, including black powder used in firearms.

Through the new partnership with Shallow Creek, MSA will be able to train canines explicitly for firearms detection, using odors unique to firearms, regardless of whether gunpowder residue exists on the firearm.

MSU Security’s plan is to provide clients with an effective and versatile solution to aid in the deterrence and detection of a concealed firearm to preempt potential mass-casualty events, minimize the risk to their guests or patrons, protect their brand and reduce their liability.

Kucera says firearms detection is a relatively new use for canines, and there’s a little bit of nuance in the training to get the handler and the canine acclimated to firearms vs. explosives.

For example, if a team were screening vehicles and a gun and ammunition was in the trunk, it’s more likely to be found, while finding a gun on a potential assailant might be a different challenge.

A recent program run through Allied Universal that had 36 canine teams dispatched to U.S. malls found about 11,000 firearms in 18 months, he says.

For more on MSA Security solutions, visit Booth No. 2719.

John Dobberstein is managing editor of SecurityInfoWatch.com.