SEATTLE – In what is expected to be the busiest August ever at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, officials with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and Sea-Tac Airport showcased one of the key assets they will use to keep passengers safe and secure: canines specially trained to detect explosives and explosive components.
At Sea-Tac Airport, TSA projects that it will screen approximately 2 million departing passengers in August, the most ever in a single month and 7 percent more than last August. TSA officers at Sea-Tac have screened an average of 61,000 people per day in July and are expected to screen an average of 63,000 people per day in August. The busiest summer travel push begins this weekend and continues to the end of August.
TSA expects the busiest days at the Sea-Tac Airport security checkpoints to be Sundays and Mondays and again Thursdays and Fridays. The peak times at the security checkpoint are projected to be 4 a.m. to noon and 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Nationwide this summer, TSA has screened an average of 2.3 million passengers per day at 440 airports. Since May 24, 2017, which coincided with the kickoff of the summer travel season, TSA has screened nearly 130 million passengers.
TSA’s 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 Sea-Tac Airport can expect to see PSCs working in the security checkpoint, making some travelers eligible for TSA Pre✓® and 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. A handler is trained to read the dog’s behavior when it indicates an explosive scent has been detected. 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.
TSA and Port of Seattle explosives 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 explosives detection canine teams working at airports, mass transit facilities and maritime locations.