b'SECURITY MIA 59with COVID-19, they immediately sat down (alerted), and thestudies regarding accelerants from suspected arson scenes, associated employee was directed to get a rapid PCR test.explosives, currency, drugs, human scent and even avocado crops Researchers report that the canines were able to quickly screenin the early stages of infection from an invasive fungus. employees coming into each checkpoint with a proven accuracyWhen County Commissioner Kionne McGhee initiated the rate of more than 97%. partnership, I was excited, says Furton, noting that he was During Phase 1 of the trial at Checkpoint 3, there was oneparticularly interested to determine how effective dogs could be alert to an employee, who later revealed that he or she haddetecting COVID-19. recently recovered from COVID-19 and just returned to work. TheFurton and his team had already trained a particular group of canines also alerted to one person who fled the checkpoint afterdogs to identify a specific fungus that affects laurel trees. Because COVID-19 was detected. It could not be determined if this personof that training, it took the dogs just a few weeks of additional was an American Airlines employee, therefore a confirmation withtraining to learn to detect COVID-19.PCR test could not be conducted. During Phase 2 of the trial at Checkpoint 1, there were two alerts to employees. At press time,We trained four dogs with disposable face coverings provided the team was waiting for PCR test confirmation about those alerts.by a local hospital, explains Furton. The face coverings had been worn by confirmed COVID-19 patients and then sterilized with In total, the pilot included 2,528 voluntary screenings ofultraviolet light. This killed the virus and made the masks safe for employees. The project team notes that the screening processresearchers to handle, but left the scent needed to train the dogs. resulted in no delays or inconveniences to the employees who participated while on their way to work.After the dogs learned to detect COVID-19, researchers spent a few months collecting data and preparing an academic paper We are grateful to be on the cutting-edgefor peer review, which was published in June 2020 (see Facts & of this particular project, says Ken Pyatt,Figures on opposite page for website address). From there, the deputy director of the Miami-Dade Aviationteam developed protocols, training aids and deliverables for a six-Department. In many ways, we are steppingmonth pilot program. out and doing the legwork for other airports by conducting this pilot program.The Miami-Dade Aviation Department funded the pilot project, paying $500 per hour for two canine teams of COVID-19 detector The industry-leading project is adogs. Each team at MIA included one handler and one dog. partnership between MIA and FloridaKEN PYATT Representatives from the Global Forensic and Justice Center International University, which performedDetection Dog program note that costs for other airports will the initial research and trained the dogs. The initiative beganvary according to variable factors, such as number of people last March, when the Miami-Dade County Board of Countyscreened, hours of operation, etc. Commissioners directed the County Mayor to procure dogs trained to detect COVID-19 for deployment at MIA, the Port ofOfficials at MIA and the research team knew it would be crucial Miami and other county facilities with extensive public use orto test the dogs accuracy in an airport environment, where they unique risks related to COVID-19. might become distracted from the noise and bustle of people. County Commissioner Kionne L. McGheeWe decided it would be best to not start with passengers, announced the decision by citing a peer- but with employees who work at the airport, Pyatt explains. We reviewed paper published by the Globalfelt they would be a lot more cooperative and willing since the Forensic and Justice Center at Floridaprogram was voluntary. International University. The paper chronicled multiple double-blind studies about four dogsAirline Partnershipthat demonstrated 97.5% accuracy detectingThe employees who took part in the study were from American COVID-19. Highlighting the research,Airlines, one of MIAs most prominent carriers. While participation McGhee recommended Kenneth G. Furton,KENNETH FURTON was open to all of the carriers employees, the checkpoint selected Ph.D., a professor of chemistry, provost and executive vicewas used heavily by ramp workers in particular.Furton explains president of Florida International University, to lead the universitythat researchers chose a checkpoint that provided enough traffic to team partnering with MIA.test the dogs without overwhelming them with distractions from the general public. Research Already in Progress Two dogs and their handlers worked Mondays, Wednesdays Furton has been researching, training and certifying detectorand Fridays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., which are typically busy times dogs since 1998, most recently by using a patented chemicalat MIA. called universal detection calibrant. After dogs become proficientAmerican Airlines posted a company representative at the at detecting the pure synthetic compound, trainers can thencheckpoint to explain that the program was voluntary, and that change the odor they want the dogs to detect, for example drugs,employees who chose to participate would receive free COVID-19 explosives or COVID-19. Although COVID-19 is a new disease,tests. They really encouraged participation, and when there were Furton had been training dogs to detect other specific chemicalvolunteers, we were off to the races, Pyatt recalls.compounds for more than two decades. His work has included AirportImprovement.comJanuary | February 2022'