K-9s help detect explosives, speed up screening time at airports

John McDevitt
February 26, 2019 - 5:27 pm
It's one of the ways the Transportation Security Administration sniffs out potential security threats at airports, including Philadelphia International Airport

John McDevitt/KYW Newsradio

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — In addition to metal detectors and X-ray machines, there's another safeguard in place that you may not even be aware of near passenger screening checkpoints: Transportation Security Administration explosive detection dogs.

It's one of the ways the TSA sniffs out potential security threats at airports, including Philadelphia International Airport, and it could be right under your nose.

Actually, these TSA explosives detection dogs are more likely at your feet.   

"The passenger screening canine program came along to better detect explosives coming to the checkpoint and also to speed up the check point," said TSA K-9 handler Gary Stoerrle.

Stoerrle's partner is Bak, a 5-year-old black Labrador retriever who specializes in air flow detection.

"As you are walking, you are putting off an air current behind you. The dog is just sniffing the air current and if there are explosives in that current, they are going to chase it to wherever the source is," he explained. 

And after he alerts his handler, Bak is rewarded with a squeaky ball.  

"They are single purpose. They are only for explosive detection, they don't attack. They don't apprehend. No drugs. Their main goal is to go through enough change in behavior for the handler to interpret, and then we decide whether to escalate from there," Stoerrle added. 

There are about 1,000 TSA K-9s working in airports across the country.