Dynamics of Terrorism

Robert Burke continues this series of articles dealing with the constantly changing technologies in the field of response to weapons of mass destruction (WMD) incidents.


This is the third in a series of periodic articles dealing with the constantly changing field of response to weapons of mass destruction (WMD) incidents. New technology, procedures, protective equipment and other innovations occur on a frequent basis. Response personnel need to be constantly...


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This is the third in a series of periodic articles dealing with the constantly changing field of response to weapons of mass destruction (WMD) incidents. New technology, procedures, protective equipment and other innovations occur on a frequent basis. Response personnel need to be constantly monitoring these changes and make adjustments to their own standard operating procedures (SOPs), personal protective equipment (PPE) and related equipment.

Mention of products here is in no way an endorsement of those products. These products are presented for consideration and evaluation by emergency responders for them to determine whether they would find them useful for their operations.

Decontamination Technology

Binary Ionization Technology (BIT) is reported by the manufacturer to be "the most advanced sanitizing system available for on-scene decontamination of equipment and hazmat personnel." Utilizing a "spray gun," this portable system produces a water-based mist that contains "transient hydroxyl radicals." OH is a radical consisting of one hydrogen atom and one oxygen atom, which does not normally exist in a stable form.

Hydroxyl radicals are among the most reactive chemical species known to science. As the spray mist contacts a microbe, cell walls are broken down, leading to the death of the organism. This process occurs within seconds of contact. Cleanup is not necessary because the remaining hydroxyl radicals bond with each other, forming oxygen and water. According to the manufacturer, the system "is not harmful to the building, its contents or occupants." This product has not been approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and has not been tested for effectiveness against all biological materials that may be found at an incident scene.

A listing of biological materials tested for the use of this technology can be found on the manufacturer's website.

Hand-Held Raman Spectroscopy System

Recently at the University of Maryland, I had to opportunity to participate in a demonstration of a newly developed WMD monitoring device. I was impressed with the unit's ease of operation, rugged construction, and the fact that it has applications in both WMD and hazardous materials incidents. The ability to program additional chemicals into the unit is also a plus. The "First Defender" model Raman spectroscopy system is designed for the identification of solids, liquids and mixtures on the incident scene.

Spectroscopy is an analytical technique arising from the interaction of a substance with electromagnetic radiation. The electromagnetic radiation absorbed, emitted or scattered by the molecule is analyzed by the device. Typically, a beam of radiation from a source such as a laser is passed through a sample, and the radiation exiting the sample is measured. First Defender has the capability of identifying substances in air and through bags, bottles and other containers without the user or the spectrometer being exposing to the substance.

Sampling is non-destructive does not require contact with the substance and requires no sample preparation. However, responders still need to wear proper protective clothing for the hazard present when using the First Defender and all monitoring instruments. Start-up time for the monitor is less than one minute. The First Defender was developed with the input and assistance of first responders and is designed for use by fire, EMS, hazardous materials teams, law enforcement and homeland security personnel in the field.

First Defender has an extensive library of substances including WMD, chemical weapons, explosives, toxic chemicals, white powders and other common hazardous materials. Users can add to the library by using the monitor on known substances and programming them into the database. The manufacturer contends that the device is highly accurate and not subject to false positives or false negatives. For further information, refer to the manufacturer's website at www.ahuracorp.com. Frost & Sullivan was awarded the 2005 Product Innovation Award for Homeland Security Technologies in recognition of the company's development of the instrument.

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