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Radiation is a rare but real threat

You can use a personal radiation detector to identify threats and protect yourself and your community


Sponsored by Mirion Technologies

By Laura Neitzel, Police1 BrandFocus Staff

When some people think of a radiation threat, they may have in mind a nuclear accident like the one at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant in March 2011 that occurred after a major earthquake when resulting tsunami waves disabled the power supply and cooling ability of three reactors at the plant.

The AccuRad personal radiation detector can be worn discreetly by law enforcement to detect potential radiation threats. (image/Mirion Technologies)
The AccuRad personal radiation detector can be worn discreetly by law enforcement to detect potential radiation threats. (image/Mirion Technologies)

In reality, however, the range of potential radiological threats is much wider, encompassing everything from medical or industrial radiation accidents to acts of terrorism.

One of the scenarios agencies like the Department of Homeland Security are preparing for is a terrorist attack using a radiological weapon or “dirty bomb” that combines conventional explosives with radioactive materials. Conceivably, a dirty bomb could be smuggled within a shipment at a port or border crossing or carried in a backpack and detonated at a public event or near critical infrastructure. Even a small explosion could disperse radioactive materials into a small, localized area, contaminating buildings and people and instilling fear of exposure for anyone nearby.

Another possible scenario sounds straight out of an action movie – a truck transporting a high-activity radioactive source is hijacked by agents of a rogue terrorist organization and driven to a border crossing. In this scenario, law enforcement personnel would need to scan all pedestrians and vehicles as they approach the border crossing.

A more likely scenario – one that over 30 first responders recently tested and trained for using the  Accurad Personal Radiation Detector from Mirion Technologies – involves a radiological weapon at a large, public sporting event – think a popular marathon with a dirty bomb. Who among the crowd of thousands is the suspect?

Detection is the key to preventing such an attack, and a personal radiation detector is law enforcement’s secret weapon.

Made for the reality of field work

Law enforcement officers and other emergency responders tasked with protecting the public and critical infrastructure have unique needs. That’s why Mirion Technologies’ AccuRad Personal Radiation Detector (PRD) was developed in collaboration with law enforcement and other emergency responders.

The AccuRad PRD has certain features that make it ideally suited for the reality of field work:

1.  Discreet profile. In a large public event like a marathon or outdoor concert, law enforcement needs to be able to screen and inspect people and possessions for a radiological threat without being obvious about it.

The Accurad PRD can be worn discreetly by law enforcement, security and other personnel during screening and inspection operations to detect potential threats and warn users of the nature and degree of radiation exposure. Its loud audio alert can also be set to silent mode when needed and be configured to vibrate or send a visual alert when an actionable level of radiation is detected.

2.  Accuracy. Law enforcement officers also need a PRD that can cast a wide net in order to protect large events and important infrastructure and help officers determine if the source of an alarm is an innocuous source or a threat.

Because there are legitimate sources of radiation – naturally radioactive objects, legitimate industrial sources and purposes, and nuclear medicine – it’s important to be able to distinguish a potential terrorist from a person receiving cancer treatment.

The AccuRad PRD runs on innovative variable background suppression, which allows operation in varying background environments and will sound the alarm only for a real threat or hazard.

3.  Bluetooth and NFC (Near Field Communication) connectivity and smartphone app.  The app offers a convenient companion mobile interface for the AccuRad PRD. In addition, if an alarm is sounded and the data needs to be analyzed by an expert, a smartphone app can relay data from the device to a remote software platform for analysis, broadening situational awareness on the ground and facilitating appropriate response measures.

4.   Built-in directionality. If a real threat is detected in a large, busy environment, the AccuRad PRD has built-in directionality to help the user pinpoint a radioactive hot spot discreetly before the source gets away.

5.  Two displays. The AccuRad PRD has two displays so it can be easily read whether it’s handheld or worn on an officer’s belt. With the top screen display, the officer can easily see the reading without having to remove the device from the belt.

6.  Durability First responders may be working in extreme conditions and even putting out literal fires. The AccuRad PRD is waterproof and rugged enough to operate in harsh conditions and survive being dropped.

The device also has large buttons so it can be easily be operated with a gloved hand, and with 900 hours of battery life, it’s designed to stay operational through long shifts and month-long missions.

7.  Ease of Use. Because PRDs are the first line of defense during radiological and nuclear interdiction efforts, it’s important that they be deployed in large numbers for use by non-technical personnel to investigate and identify sources of radiation and measure dosage.

The menus are easy to read and the navigation is simple, meaning emergency responders can learn to operate the device within minutes with minimal training.

While a radiological or nuclear threat may seem speculative, it’s law enforcement’s job to be prepared for anything. With the Accurad PRD, a police officer or other emergency responder can make sure no threat, no rogue terrorist and no dangerous level of radiation goes undetected.

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