Detecting the source of radiation and whether it constitutes a threat to the general public is a dangerous and difficult job for first responders. To mitigate the risk of exposure to radiation, the DHS Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO) is funding the development of the next generation Standoff Radiation Detector (SRD). The next generation of SRDs will locate a radiation source from a safe distance of approximately 10 to 100 meters, depending on the application of the device.
Larger than personal or handheld radiation detectors, SRDs are usually mounted in vehicles, such as trucks, boats, and aircraft. They typically contain both gamma and neutron radiation detectors, since both types of radiation are emitted from special materials used in nuclear devices. SRDs have the ability to determine the direction of the source and distinguish potential threats from normally-occurring radioactive materials, such as potassium-40 and radium-226 that are found in soil.
SRDs are used by law enforcement and other first responder personnel in a wide variety of applications. On land, they can be used to scan a large area, such as a parking lot for a missing, stolen, or illegal radiological source. SRDs can scan vehicle traffic along roads and at chokepoints, as well as vehicle and pedestrian traffic at large gatherings such as concerts and sporting events. When mounted in boats, SRDs can scan harbors, marinas, other boats, and large ships. SRDs can also help protect coastline areas to prevent a nuclear device from being smuggled into the country. Aircraft-mounted SRDs can survey for radiological plumes, find radiation sources on the ground, and scan remote border crossings.
The DHS S&T National Urban Security Technology Laboratory (NUSTL) hosted a focus group in September 2012 to discuss current SRDs with emergency responders from six different agencies and subject-matter experts from DNDO. The focus group selected and weighted evaluation criteria to assess commercially-available SRDs. DNDO also provided information on the development of the next generation of SRDs. The feedback from first responders and subject matter experts will be used to guide refinement and further development of the these important devices.
NUSTL facilitated the focus group as part of S&T’s System Assessment and Validation for Emergency Responders (SAVER) program, which provides first responders with information to make informed equipment purchasing decisions.