K9 bomb detection services declined at the outset of 2020 as initial municipal lockdown brought special events, spectator sports, executive travel and political travel to a standstill. Overseas flights were curtailed, and it seemed that threat levels using explosives diminished due to the shock and danger of the COVID virus.
Bomb detection services usually fall into two categories – a sweep to identify any threats in a protective environment, or a known threat that needed to be located, identified, and removed. With the COVID lockdown in the city, both categories vastly diminished.
There was even a significant reduction in terrorist chatter addressing planned or imminent attacks.
As the year progressed, the lockdown was eased somewhat, but with social distancing still de rigueur throughout the city, the need for bomb detection remained unusually slow.
GSS took advantage of this time to develop protocols for compliance with New York state Forward Safety Plan, including entry of K9 and handler to confined areas that potentially could harbor surface or airborne COVID pathogens.
Our COVID protocols include the assignment of a COVID Compliance Officer (CCO), who is responsible for establishing and enforcing safety protocols, training staff, and monitoring compliance.
As 2020 ended, COVID vaccines made their appearance, bringing hope to the population. Additionally, restaurants were beginning to open at reduced capacity, and outdoor dining. Employers were balancing in-office working and remote working.
Once the vaccines were approved and distribution began the most vulnerable began to get immunized. Concurrently there was more confidence in international and domestic air travel. The impact of increased immunized population and those having recovered from infection resulted in a higher degree of protection for citizens – and miscreants. It seemed that toward the close of 2020 terrorist threat levels increased, as rich target environments again presented themselves.
GSS explosive detecting dogs are critical for bomb search missions. The COVID related risks impact basically the dog handler alone, and common surfaces he comes in contact with before, during, and after the missions.
Therefore, dog handlers are gloved, and wear face protection with double masking. It is possible for dogs to carry COVID viral matter and transmit to humans. With this in mind, at the conclusion of every mission, dogs are washed using a disinfectant proven to kill viral material on contact.
In the event explosive device or devices are located, EOD personnel are briefed by the GSS COVID Compliance Officer on protocol and potential contacts with viral matter. Typically, an EOD operation involves only one or two technicians. These personnel follow COVID precautions as much as practicable in their mission.
With increased sporting events, conventions and trade shows, as well as visiting politicians and heads of state traveling to New York City, there will be an increasing need for K9 bomb detection services.
GSS anticipates a significant return to pre-COVID volume of these assignments in 2021.