Report: More User-friendly Detection Equipment Needed

Moving out of the battlefield, detection and monitoring equipment is rapidly being deployed into civilian routines and applications such as mass transit systems, government buildings and public events in North America.

Public pressure, triggered by terrorist attacks and instances such as the 2001 anthrax mailings, is forcing authorities to deploy effective security measures that help provide a secure environment for citizens.

"The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Defense (DOD) are funding the large-scale development of chemical and biological detection technologies that will allow first responders such as fire fighters, police officers, emergency medical technicians and hazardous material teams to detect unseen threats," says Frost & Sullivan Research Analyst Michael Valenti.

These technically superior devices need to be adapted for easy maneuverability by non-scientist frontline users.

The equipment's capability to minimize false positives is another priority, since false alarms can lead to complacency among civilians who may not pay attention to a real alert or could cause unwanted panic. Thus, most current research and development (R&D) in detection equipment is focusing on reducing the instances of false positive readings.

Detection speed is a vital to enable emergency personnel to contain risks while dealing with lethal toxins, which could endanger a large number within minutes.

"The faster authorities can determine the exact nature of a threat, such as anthrax versus bubonic plague, or Sarin gas versus VX, the swifter they can formulate an appropriate response to mitigate its effects," says Valenti. "This includes initiating the optimal evacuation plans, administering the correct vaccines and identifying the most-at-risk population."

Recent developments include the portable distributed sampling unit (DSU) and innovative environmental monitoring systems, which consistently test air samples to recognize biological threats.

To enforce the development and deployment of systems, which are faster, accurate and easy-to-use, authorities need to compile and implement regulations. Participants are already working toward higher quality products as demand increases from the civilian sector.

"All branches of the armed forces will continue to be a prime market for both chemical and biological detection technologies, but newer and massive markets will be found in police and fire departments, public health authorities, and industrial concerns with large or high security risk facilities, for example, defense contractors," concludes Valenti.

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