First responders, Homeland Security officers and others whose jobs involve safeguarding the public are increasingly arming themselves with radiation detection devices that can help them deal with hazardous materials events or acts of terrorism. Protecting their own safety as well as the safety of the citizens they serve depends upon their supervisors choosing the type of detection equipment that is appropriate for the likely scenarios they will face and on making sure that the people on the front lines know how to use it correctly.
New York City, understandably, has developed a robust radiation detection system which includes both personal radiation detectors that officers carry with them while on duty and a system of passive detection that covers city streets, tunnels and waterways. The personal devices are about the size of pagers and produce a humming noise when radiation levels above normal are detected. The passive systems includes cars placed around the city with radiation detectors hidden in them as well as a counterterrorism boat with a radiation detector built right into its hull — a complex and connected network intended to alert authorities to the presence of “dirty bombs” — which combine conventional explosives like dynamite with radioactive materials — before they can be detonated.