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Fighting portability with portability

Detecting dirty bombs at large sporting events

Large groups are targets for terrorism, from crowded city streets to markets and malls. Unfortunately, large sporting events are synonymous with large groups, and the stakes are as high as the visibility, excitement, and ticket sales. The world is watching.

Although we’d rather not think about it, terrorist threats are now omnipresent in our society. One of these threats, a radiological dispersion device (RDD) or what is commonly called a “dirty bomb,” combines conventional explosives with radioactive material to produce an ideal weapon for a sporting event: it has a modest blast radius, but it spreads highly dangerous radiation over many square miles and, perhaps most important, is portable.

In the spirit of fighting fire with fire, today’s law enforcement is increasingly fighting portability with portability. Because RDDs can be as small as a backpack, it can be incredibly difficult for law enforcement and security agencies to detect these weapons using conventional means. At large sporting events -- whether they be national championships or worldwide tournaments -- any of these entrants could be transporting an RDD.

Beyond the standard detection technique, where radiation portals or checkpoints (for which Thermo Fisher Scientific also manufactures technology) are used to proactively scan vehicles or patrons, law enforcement is increasingly using a handheld or belt-worn devices, such as the Thermo Scientific RADEye PRD (personal radiation detector), which can be deployed passively across an entire venue. Patrons wouldn’t even notice them on the belts of law enforcement personnel.

Because large sporting events typically deploy hundreds of security professionals on the ground, outfitting all of them with belt-mounted radiation detectors gives a security team leader a highly distributed and mobile radiation security network. An integrated network of mobile radiation detectors allows security teams on the ground to passively scan all attendees and areas throughout an event, as they patrol assigned sections, effectively creating a moving curtain of security.

Since its market introduction in 2005, tens of thousands of RadEye PRD units have been deployed worldwide to support the efforts of law enforcement and homeland security forces. The handheld technology is now commonplace at large sporting events internationally, providing a measure of protection that we cannot see, but that is surely worthy of a hearty cheer.

RadEye images for dirty bomb prevention story

“Since its market introduction in 2005, tens of thousands of RadEye PRD units have been deployed worldwide to support the efforts of law enforcement and homeland security forces."