DHS Developing Chemical Detectors

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is looking for a good sniffer. Of dangerous chemicals, that is.

DHS wants to find a laboratory that can use “a prescribed set of performance specifications to evaluate and assess commercially developed chemical vaporsubway station detectors for use within the civilian public and private sectors,” according to a statement of work proposal. The chemical vapor detectors would be installed in public places that might be targets for terrorist attacks, such as subway stations.

The detectors could sniff for dangerous chemical weapons agents, such as sarin, soman, sulfur mustard, nerve agents, and similar gases. The detectors’ mission also would include finding evidence of toxic industrial chemicals that are still considered dangerous, such as ammonia, chlorine, formaldehyde, hydrogen chloride, sulfur dioxide, and others, reports Government Security News.

“These detectors should continuously monitor on a 24 hours, 365 days per year basis and provide information about vapor phase chemical constituents detected in the selected venue,” the statement of work says. “These detectors should be sufficiently sensitive to provide detect-to-warn capability to enable effective response measures, such as active management of airflow, evacuation notice/alarm, and notification to responders.”

The DHS announcement says that the notice was not a request for proposal but rather an effort to gather information from prospective vendors. When testing begins at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland, the chosen laboratory will create the appropriate mixture of chemical agents to test the detectors under varying humidity and temperature conditions.

The lab will then compile the data collected and analyze the results. Seven different chemical weapons agents, 12 toxic industrial chemicals, and 12 interferents — chemicals such as window cleaner, bleach, and solvents that whose presence often interferes with an analytical procedures and generates incorrect results — will be tested in various combinations.

Source: “DHS to test detectors that would sniff for chemical agents in subways,” Government Security News, 7/31/12
Image by Ed Webster.