Valentine’s Day is a bittersweet time for people connected to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. 17 people lost their lives that day, and another 17 were injured. A gunman walked into school with a semi-automatic weapon and opened fire. After the shooting, he escaped on foot by blending in with the students.
And so every time we hear of another active shooter tragedy, we think how could a Vapor Detection Dog have prevented that happening. To be honest there are so many of these wretched and unnecessary events in the United States it is a subject which is constantly on our radar. The challenge is to get more people aware of how Vapor Detection Dogs can offer a safe and low key way to identify a person carrying any form of explosive (including bullets) in what should be the safe setting of a school, hospital, mall, cinema, airport or hotel.
Word is getting out there. Vapor Detection Dogs are on patrol in more shopping malls around the country, they are on patrol at the Superbowl, and they are extending their reach across the United States to enhance security planning for new domestic customers.
They are in short an American security success story. In a program which began at The University of Alabama in Auburn Vapor Detection Dogs are trained to detect CONCEALED body-worn/carried explosives or firearms on an individual that is moving through a crowded public space such as a school. Unlike traditional security K9’s, which are trained to detect statically placed explosive devices or hidden firearms, Vapor Detection Dogs are able to detect concealed threats on a moving target. This is because Vapor Detection Dogs are extensively trained to search for the odor itself as it moves through the area.
This is what enables a Vapor Detection Dog to do what others consistently and effectively cannot: follow an individual (or target) with a concealed explosive device or firearm to the source in real time, and while the target is in motion. Additionally, Vapor Detection Dogs are socially and environmentally conditioned throughout their training processes to work in high-flow pedestrian areas. They can accurately screen hundreds of people unobtrusively passing through an entry point in a non-intrusive way. The technology and training programs involved in getting these dogs in place produce versatile K9 teams that can be deployed in settings ranging from concert venues to airports.
In relation to any mass shooting tragedy we ask ourselves if a Vapor Detection Dog had been on patrol what is the likelihood that the shooter would have been identified as carrying explosive material being the bullets in the guns - much sooner and therefore prevented from carrying out this wicked deed.
So, if we put this fact into a risk assessment framework in simple terms how does that work? The trouble with active shooters in many situations is that their appearance is totally random. Intel from law enforcement cannot predict a person in mental anguish who one day decides to pick up a gun and go on a killing rampage.
Instead, we have to look at the sorts of venues where active shootings have occurred. A report in Time Magazine this week refers to 37 years of mass shootings in the US, with an infographic depicting the numbers of people killed and wounded by active shooters. In this graphic, the worst incident is by far the shooting in Las Vegas from the Mandalay Bay hotel in which 51 people were killed and over 400 people were wounded (see http://bit.ly/2ZS3xnC ). As the article mentions a mass shooting is defined as any incident with over 3 fatalities. And quite rightly, the statistics do not include the thousands of gun killings involving 2 or fewer people.
So, it made us think about if we were Walmart what could it do as an American icon in the retail sector, to take a stand against copycat active shooters. Our recommendation would be to put a Vapor Detection Dog on patrol during store opening hours at Supercenters and develop some data around just how many people are entering its retail stores with live ammunition. We don’t know if Walmart has ever done a study of this type of risk, but the brand seems to have a higher risk of active shooter involvement than other retailers. There are over 3,000 of these types of Walmart store in the US according to statistics on the size of the Walmart estate (see http://bit.ly/2YWvgCI ) but what a great community project for Walmart to take the lead on. It’s a household name, and it must want to protect its brand from future incidents.
Walmart could lean on the experiences of a couple of huge brands in the US to justify such an approach. Walt Disney World has a fully-fledged Vapor Detection Dog program as do the NFL. An article was written in Sports Business Daily (see http://bit.ly/2KoiubX ) explains how Vapor Detection Dog have been introduced to national stadiums and now the NFL to sweep before, and provide security at entrances, for major league games.
The politics of managing these dreadful incidents are well rehearsed. The fact is Presidents come and go. Some are tough on gun crime, some less so. We think whatever the politics, the US Government can continue to support the security industry to find ways to minimize the risk of these tragedies happening on US soil. This means encouraging and where necessary passing laws to ensure that venues of “soft targets” such as schools and shopping malls are managing the active shooter risk.
Vapor Detection dogs are not a panacea to prevent mass shootings, but they are a useful and smart way to start to tackle the problem of identifying where a gun can occur based on the historical data, the sort of guns people are carrying, and whether those guns should be allowed on to different sorts of property. Think hotels, schools, hospitals, shopping malls, retail stores, stadiums, airports and banks and then think why would a person want to take a semi-automatic weapon to any of those venues.
Only a proper risk assessment will bring an organization to the policy it wants to impose on its visitors and employees but at least it’s the start of a conversation about do you really need to be carrying that sort of gun into school?