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Volume 21 No. 13
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A direct line to experts

Explosives detection / MSA Security

MSA Security has the FBI at its back for identifying potential explosives in packages delivered to arenas and stadiums.

The security consultant, in addition to supplying canine bomb detection services for about 40 percent of NFL teams, owns a system called SmartTech, which provides direct communication between a sports facility and FBI-certified bomb technicians in New York.

Most U.S. mail is not screened unless it’s shipped by air cargo, which leaves those areas vulnerable to attacks, said Jeff Miller, an MSA executive launching his own security consulting firm. SmartTech is tied to a computer software program that “rides” over the top of a venue’s X-ray machine already in place. The cost is under $10,000 for a one-year subscription and the fee covers training sessions for mailroom employees, Miller said.

The SmartTech system works with package screening systems already in place.
Courtesy of: MSA SECURITY
It is one option to fill the gap in the first line of defense against potential terrorism. The loading docks behind and underneath venues where overnight shippers deliver packages are considered soft targets because they’re often hidden from sight and not as heavily populated as the building’s public spaces.

To this point, the New York Yankees and San Francisco 49ers are among the teams using SmartTech, Miller said.

“The beauty of the system and the reason it’s been so valuable for our clients is it’s connected 24/7 to our bomb technicians operating in lower Manhattan,” he said. “When something occurs and there is uncertainty as to a threat posed by a package, they can push a button, put the headset on and now they’re talking to a bomb tech. The bomb tech has the ability to manipulate an image in real time and usually make a call on whether it’s an explosive device in 25 to 50 seconds. It’s like having your own bomb squad standing by to assist at a moment’s notice, and that’s a big resource to have.”

It’s a sensible solution compared with dialing 911 to report a bomb threat and having the police department automatically evacuate the building without determining whether the threat is valid, he said.

In addition, for facilities equipped only with X-ray machines, mailroom employees may have a tendency to hesitate reporting an issue they find while screening packages. It’s a behavioral aspect that Miller has discovered over his 10 years as a venue security specialist.

“Many times, they don’t have good experience with [the screening process], so they shy away from it,” he said.

As part of its training, MSA Security encourages mailroom staff to use the technology to their benefit. Every day, teams using the system send test packages through SmartTech and calls are made to the bomb techs to walk staff through the process to make them more comfortable with it, Miller said.

“So, in an emergency … they’re not discouraged from interacting with our people,” he said. “At our operations center, the phones ring at different times of the day because different parts of the world are waking up. It’s a really interesting process, but a safe way to do it and cost-effective.”