There are significant advances in technology aimed at alerting to metals, bombs and trace amounts of explosives. Even more telling, applications have, no pun intended, exploded outside typical uses. Two important areas come to mind: sniffing traveler documents for trace amounts of explosives and checking people and objects prior to entering a refinery or electric, gas or nuclear utilities. With closer inspection of travel documents for those entering the United States, officials saw an opportunity to also “test” the documents for trace amounts of explosives. And there is no doubt that America’s infrastructure is an obvious target of domestic and international terrorists beyond disgruntled employees and vandals.

Equipment already exists in which the device analyzes items such as checked or carry-on luggage, portable electronic devices or packages. In a few seconds, the device can determine the presence of traces of explosive substances. If a contraband substance is detected, the specific name of it is identified on the unit’s display.

New bomb detection designs aim at “sniffing” documents to determine if they contain trace amounts of explosives. Pictured is technology from Smiths Detection.
For example, firms such as Smiths Detection of Pine Brook, N.J., are working with the Transportation Security Administration to employ the firm’s Ionscan Document Scanner to collect samples by swiping the surface of documents such as driver’s licenses, passports and other travel documents, over a sample disc. Subsequently, the sample disc is automatically brought into the detector for analysis and a display presents the results to operators. If detection is made, the specific explosive is identified. Positive detection means that trace amounts of a particular explosive have been found on the item sampled and would indicate that an explosive device may be present or that the person may have been in contact with explosive material.

Metal and bomb detection systems, typically seen at airports, are now pulling duty at many infrastructure facilities.

Power refining and generating plants now more often employ metal and bomb detection for people, vehicles and packages.
The bottom line: there is a more diverse group of metal and explosives detection systems and they are being used in more diverse ways.

And speaking of electricity, security and life safety executives are sensitive these days to the operation and safety of electrical equipment and systems, especially after the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina. The folks at Square D (Schneider Electric North American Operating Division, Palatine, Ill.) recently gave me some good advice in this area. The company has more details at

Among key elements:

Do not plug a portable generator into an outlet or patch it into electrical wiring or connect it directly to a main electrical panel. Doing so could cause fires or cause power to flow into an electrical line.

Use a dry or non-conductive tool to reset breakers and use only one hand.

Turn off office lights and systems when power goes out. This helps avoid fire hazards as well as sudden demands on the electric system.

And for your employees and security officers, tell them that, if a power line falls on their vehicle, assume the line is energized and remain inside the vehicle, blowing your horn for help. If the person is forced to leave his or her car, tell them to jump as far away from the vehicle as they can, landing with both feet together.