The role of the detection of Improvised Explosive Devices containing chemical, biological or radiological substances in the context of the international airports protection

One of the most important functions of each state is to provide citizens with security,
to guarantee protection against existing threats. In order to meet the challenges of modern threats, the protection of critical infrastructure included international airports must correctly define threats and introduce security systems based on measures and resources where the aim is to prevent acts of unlawful interference.

Terrorism as a social phenomenon is one of the most serious contemporary threats. The essence of terrorism is lawlessness use of violence in attacks using different combat assets. Terrorists might use unconventional weapons, for example, improvise explosive devices with chemical, biological or radiological substances. In those cases, terrorists intend to reinforce the effects of the detonation of an explosive contained in an explosive device by disseminating dangerous chemical substances on the ground. This reinforcement is intended to further cause poisonous effects due to the possession of irritating, suffocating properties. For example, chlorine, used during World War I, proved to be an effective weapon. Thousands of soldiers died protecting against its effects in the trenches. This substance, being heavier than air, deposited at the bottom of the trenches (Chlorine Cl2 – at ambient temperature is a greenish-yellow gas with a pungent odor, which can be liquefied under low pressure).

The essence of an attack using an explosive device containing chemical agents is to cover as many people as possible, thereby killing them or causing them side effects. Factors such as wind, temperature, pressure can reduce the effect of explosive regulation containing chemical substances. Given the fact that the spread of chemical material takes place in the air, a closed object promotes such an attack more than an open space. Another factor limiting the effects of this weapon is the thermal effect caused by the detonation of an explosive contained in a device. Thus, the choice of the type of explosive and its quantity intended for explosives in an explosive device and its design will depend on parameters such as temperature, pressure which could cause the chemical to decompose. The toxic properties of chemical substances are most harmful when are used in confined spaces.

In conclusion, an explosive device containing a chemical substance is intended to spread the chemical to humans for poisoning, incapacitation, or killing. As a result of the emission of energy in the form of shockwave, heat, and mass, the chemical substances depending on their properties will pose a threat to the environment. An explosive device containing chemical material can be made by relatively cheap methods using substances available on the civilian market, while their effectiveness is difficult to predict. The use of explosive devices containing chemical material is an example of asymmetric actions that use unconventional strategies and tactics. Their use is due to the existing possibilities of using publicly available products.

Knowing and understanding what we are facing is key to successfully preparing to respond to a CBRNe incident. In the author’s opinion, there are constant changes in ways of attacking critical infrastructures, which are also international airports, through the use of explosive devices containing chemical, biological or radiological substances. This threat is a significant challenge for security specialists.

In accidental CBRNe events, the only hazard that is expected to be encountered at the scene are released chemical, biological or radiological substances. Due to the limited capacity of the human senses to detect CBRNe agents, it is necessary to support first responders by instruments of detecting dangerous agents. These kinds of instruments must be characterized by appropriate parameters to determine whether the instrument set will be able to detect hazards in different places in changing ambient conditions.

Improvised Explosive Devices containing chemical, biological or radiological substances are very difficult threats. The different types of missions and the variety of possible agents at the scene make it impossible to have one detector for all threats. For this purpose, it is very important to use the equipment for the detection or identification of CBRN substances in improvised explosive devices. Detection allows determining the risk factor as well as to estimate its degree. Moreover, it does not only allow first responders to define threats but also to locate them. Thus, instruments for detection or identification of CBRN substances in improvised explosive devices must be characterized by appropriate parameters. The most important are:

  • Limit of detection;
  • Limit of Quantification;
  • Precision of measurement;
  • Response time;
  • Time to standby time;
  • Resistance to extreme environmental conditions;
  • Cost of the instrument and operating costs.

The detection of agents has its specific characteristics. This is due to the fact that there are chemical substances with very different levels of toxicity, different physical forms of these substances. Proper selection of detection devices is not an easy task, because no instrument meets all the requirements and fits into every possible scenario of using improvised explosive devices.