Lindsay Peyton
Officer Warren Bresko with rescue dog Murphy, who has served as his partner for three years, practiced finding explosives in a crowded space during a training drill at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on Tuesday, May 9.

High security hide-and-seek, K9 training at Sea-Tac

By Lindsay Peyton

The dogs had a field day at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on Tuesday, May 9.

“It’s just like hide-and-seek, what we do all day long with the dogs,” Port of Seattle K9 officer David Irons said.

While the day’s training session may have seemed like a game for the bomb-sniffing canines, the important work they were doing could save lives one day.

There were multiple drills planned at the airport, all as a way for the dogs to practice finding explosives in a crowded space.

Officers from various units around the state were invited to attend, with their canine companions, to train alongside travelers at the airport, finding real explosives in a real-world environment.

The airport was just one of a handful of sites, where more than 120 K9 teams trained during the day.

In the baggage area, dogs searched until they found bags, which officers had planted on-site.

In the ticketing area, the four-legged security guards practiced identifying a moving target, using a technique that Port of Seattle officer Hannah Minnehan said is also used in the Pentagon.

“Traditionally, dogs are trained on a stationary threat,” she said. “What we’re doing is training dogs to track a moving target.”

Instead of simply finding abandoned bags containing explosives, the dogs learned how to find a person carrying weapons and follow them until they are apprehended.

Minnehan said the idea is to give dogs the opportunity to practice working in a busy environment.

Convening various police agencies from around the state also gives the organizations a chance to practice working together – and to be better prepared for an emergency situation.

“If we ever need added resources, it’s nice to be able to call on these agencies,” she said. “The faster the response, the better.”

Irons said a key goal was to foster a learning scenario for all of the K9 units.

“It’s just an opportunity to get together and train as a group,” he said. “It’s good to get all of these people together.

Brian DeRoy, a spokesman for the Port of Seattle, said canine units are an important part of airport security.

“A dog is a traveler’s best friend,” he said. “A dog essentially becomes a pre-check. They speed up the line. And we hope it doesn’t ever happen, but a dog can detect something that could prevent a massive situation.”

DeRoy added that the Port of Seattle Police have recently added three new canine team members.

Minnehan said having dogs working at the visibly demonstrates the high priority the Port places on security.

“Don’t you feel safer when you see the dogs?” she said. “That’s what we want to do here, make our passengers feel safe.”

Minnehan added that in addition to their intense sense of smell, dogs have the advantage of being on the move.

“Dog teams are mobile and adaptable,” she said.

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