Entries in RailSafe (2)


Amtrak Rail Security Drill Underway: K-9 Technology Still Man's Best Friend

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Rail passengers across the country may have noticed more police and heavily armed guards on trains today as part of a national rail security exercise, but they probably did not realize that the most specially trained officer at the station might be the Labrador retriever standing on the platform.

The Department of Homeland Security and Amtrak today held Operation RAILSAFE, which stands for Regional Alliance Including Local, State and Federal Efforts.  It included the deployment of increased security patrols, more passenger bag inspections and K-9 units, including "Vapor-Wake Detection" (VWD) dogs that can hone in on explosives that may be on a moving person or bag passing through the station.

Amtrak police have been increasing their use of K-9s and getting more vapor wake dogs deployed on trains as more of the dogs are trained.

While traditional bomb detection dogs have the ability to sniff out explosives and residues that may be on a person or an item at close range, the vapor wake dogs can sense the explosives at a greater range for as long as 15 minutes and track down where the scent is coming from.

The term "vapor wake" comes from the fact that air swirls behind people as they walk, according to Dr. Robert Gillette, director of the Animal Health and Performance Program at Auburn University's College of Veterinary Medicine.  The Canine Detection Research Institute also is part of the Auburn program, which has been the only place where the VWD dogs are trained since 2008.

"These are the Michael Jordans of the explosive detection world," Amtrak police inspector William Parker said of the vapor wake dogs in an interview with ABC News at Union Station.

Unlike screening technology and x-rays, the dogs can quickly learn new types of explosives that they may need to search for. "It detects all type of explosives," Parker said. "If something new comes out, all we do is introduce the odor to the dog and after a couple of hours the dog will pick it up."

Amtrak has held the RAILSAFE exercises before, but this exercise was one of the first to take place nationwide. Despite the elevated threat environment in Europe over possible attacks there, officials said the event was planned far in advance to take place on the long Columbus Day weekend.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio´╗┐


U.S. Plans Law Enforcement 'Surge' on Trains

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- U.S. authorities plan a law enforcement surge this week along Amtrak routes, an exercise called operation RailSafe.  The heads of the country's biggest mass transit systems were briefed on the possible terror threat, all part of what is being called an abundance of caution.

Amtrak is holding a high-security exercise on Friday in which uniformed officers will be a visible presence on national transit routes. RailSafe will include all the local police agencies along the Amtrak routes involved in the exercise. Amtrak's counterparts in Europe and Britain will also be holding an exercise called "Rail Action Day" on Friday, according to a senior Amtrak official in the security sector.

A senior Department of Homeland Security official said the exercise is "long-planned" and "is not connected in any way" to the terror threat in Europe.

The stepped-up security comes as the U.S. used drones Monday to attack a suspected center of the plot in Pakistan.

The target was one of the terror training camps in the Waziristan region, where U.S. officials say a contingent of German citizens of Afghan and Turkish descent have been preparing for jihad against Europe.

U.S. officials say some have already been dispatched, likely those with their faces obscured in a recently released propaganda tape.

However, Pakistani officials told ABC News that at least eight Germans, including the group's leader, known as Commander Fayaz, were killed today by CIA missiles launched from an unmanned aircraft. The suspected militants belonged to a group called Jehad al Islami.

The strike comes a day after the State Department issued a highly unusual travel advisory for Americans going to Europe because of the potential threat of Mumbai-style commando attacks on civilians, possibly by terrorists of German origin based in Waziristan. Authorities learned of the possible plot this summer from a German national who had been training for jihad and is being held by the U.S. in Afghanistan. ´╗┐

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio