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Snapshot: S&T Studies How K9 First Responders Can Join the Team in Active Shooter Scenarios


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Canines are widely used by law enforcement agencies and first responders to protect the homeland in various ways. Specially-trained dog teams, for instance, are deployed to disaster scenes and in urban search and rescue missions because of their keen sense of smell, speed, and ability to maneuver in tight spots. Explosive detection canine teams, too, are no stranger to dangerous working conditions. They are used throughout critical infrastructure to detect explosive devices.

More and more often, canines are the unsung heroes in times of emergency, and first responders are increasingly relying on them as the first line of defense during tactical missions, with the hope that these highly trained dogs and their handlers can help them implement a safer and more effective response. And now, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) is studying how they might be used in new, non-traditional ways, like in active shooter scenarios, to detect potential explosive threats – clearing the way for responders to quickly engage hostile adversaries or administer aid to those who need it.

Until recently, no testing, evaluation, or assessment had ever been done to determine how canine teams would respond to an active shooter scenario. In September 2019, S&T’s Detection Canine Program, in partnership with Battelle Memorial Institute and the Counterterrorism Advanced Training Center (CTATC), designed, sponsored and implemented two innovative pilot study demonstrations to explore the proof of concept role of canine teams in an active shooter response situation.



U.S. Department of Homeland Security · · 202-282-8000