Who let the San Francisco canines out?

Tuesday, May 24, 2022
K-9 Paco and handler photo

It’s training day in the Bay area. Fifteen canine teams from federal, state and local law enforcement agencies teamed up for a bomb threat detection training at an evacuated school. The

K-9 Archy and Votta photo
San Francisco K-9 Archy and his handler, Trisha Votta, search for possible explosives during a school bomb threat exercise. (Photo by Christopher Hartman)

joint training exercise (JTX), led by TSA’s Canine Training Instructors, included canine teams from TSA, San Francisco Police Department Airport Bureau and Mass Transit and the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department.

The training activities concentrated on the different ways to respond to school bomb threats. In each scenario, the teams faced search conditions outside of normal operations, explained Canine Training Instructor Christopher Hartman from San Francisco International Airport (SFO).

Hartman said the first time the K-9 teams visited this school was in December, during a similar exercise while the school was on winter break. The spring break drill presented new challenges, offering the teams an opportunity to return to the same site and apply skills from previous lessons learned.

In this exercise, scenarios focused on K-9 sweeps of evacuated classrooms, unattended vehicles and artfully concealed plants with an overall emphasis on situational awareness.

AFSD of Screening Kevin Sprouse voiced the importance of these monthly training events, saying that the JTX’s are “a great training evolution that enhance relationships and promote collaborative learning.”

SFO’s joint monthly K-9 training regimen is centered around emergency response and DHS special event support. “As trainers, our goal is to have the teams experience unique search events in a training environment before responding to them operationally,” Hartman added. “As the team’s progress, they will continue to build from lessons learned and apply these abilities to enhance their detection skills.”

By TeaNeisha Barker, TSA Strategic Communications & Public Affairs