SALT LAKE CITY – In what is expected to be one of the busiest summer travel seasons nationwide, officials with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and Salt Lake City Airport (SLC) showcased one of the key assets they will use to keep passengers departing SLC safe and secure: canines specially trained to detect explosives and explosive components.
TSA projects the number of passengers departing SLC this summer will increase by 12 percent over this same period last year. TSA officers at SLC are expected to screen an average of 25,000 people per day with the busiest period starting in mid-July and continuing to the end of August.
TSA expects the busiest days at the security checkpoint to be Sundays and Mondays and again Thursdays and Fridays. The peak times at the security checkpoint are projected to be 4:30 a.m. until 10:30 a.m. and again from 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Nationwide, record numbers of passengers are expected to be screened by TSA at more than 440 airports this summer. Peak travel months nationally will be June and July, including the July 4th weekend. During the busiest days of the summer, TSA will screen more than 2.5 million passengers per day.
The use of Passenger Screening Canines (PSCs) will significantly assist TSA in the efficiency of its screening process. PSCs are trained to work in a busy transportation environment, using their keen sense of smell when working in and around travelers and their belongings. Passengers departing SLC can expect to see PSCs working in the security checkpoint, making some travelers eligible for expedited screening.
PSC handlers are trained to read the dog’s behavior when it indicates an explosive scent has been detected, often without the source being aware and even if the source is mobile. PSCs are able to navigate among large groups of people to pinpoint the source of the odor.
The canines are tethered to their handlers and can be seen working in close proximity to passengers at the airport. If a dog alerts its handler to something suspicious, there is an established procedure in place to resolve the alarm.
TSA uses layers of security – both seen and unseen by the public – in coordination with airport security operations to protect passengers and the nation’s transportation system. These specially trained canines are an effective tool in detecting concealed explosives, which are known to be the greatest threat to the aviation system.
Explosive detection canine teams, which include a handler and a canine, have been through 12 weeks of intensive training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio. Teams are regularly tested and must maintain certification.
Working canines should not be petted or fed by anyone except their handlers. Nationwide, TSA has nearly 1,000 explosive detection canine teams working at airports, mass transit facilities and maritime locations.