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Canine’s’ sense of smell is more than a million times stronger than a human’s, making them excellent partners for explosive locating. Many detection canine teams, however, have limited access to critical training materials and limited time to establish rigorous training scenarios. The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate’s (S&T) Detection Canine Program has developed the Regional Explosives Detection Dog Initiative (REDDI) in order to support these needs, boost knowledge sharing and validate research for the nation’s more than 4,000 explosives detection canine teams.

“We’re setting up real-world problems,” Don Roberts, DHS S&T Detection Canine Program Manager told “The initiative seeks to improve the operational effectiveness of the law enforcement explosive detection canine teams while informing S&T on where our research investment needs to be focused going forward”.

In March 2017, the Detection Canine Program kicked off REDDI to share knowledge and provide exercises in basic odor recognition and realistic operational search scenarios. Up to 20 explosives detection canine teams participate in each two-day program, which includes classroom presentations on current explosive threats and the chemistry of explosives, as well as odor recognition trials and operational searches. The goal is to improve explosive detection canine team training effectiveness and efficiency in order to improve overall operational proficiency.

REDDI provides a realistic setting where law enforcement teams from several jurisdictions can evaluate their detection capabilities, understand their strengths, and identify additional training needs. The DHS detection canine research program benefits from REDDI in that it validates current investments and informs the direction of future research.

Participation in a REDDI event is often the first opportunity a local law enforcement explosive detection canine team has to assess their capabilities in authentic, real-world scenarios, with scientifically rigorous oversight by DHS S&T. S&T has funded two tools to strengthen the impact of REDDI – non-hazardous peroxide training aids and a custom-developed data collection tool.

“The problem is that these are sensitive explosives,” said Roberts. “They’re difficult to train with, and the teams aren’t getting the frequency of training we feel might be necessary to stay efficient. Having non-hazardous training aids allows the teams to train with the peroxide material in the operational environment, like airports, stadiums or in mass transit.”

S&T is also using the Mobile Application for Canine Evaluation (MACE), a tablet-based data collection tool developed by S&T partner Battelle Memorial Institute, to provide immediate feedback at REDDI events to canine teams and their trainers. The application compiles performance data in real time, which makes it possible for S&T to efficiently and effectively conduct REDDI as a two-day event.