Chemical Threats Become More Commonplace

I recently saw that on President Obama's trip to India security was, as you would expect, pretty tight. Secret Service was not allowed to bring weapons into Rashtrapati Bhavan (the presidential palace of India) and the Parliament House complex in India.

Citing protocol, the Union Home Ministry and Delhi Police asked the armed U.S. Marines and Secret Service escorting the President to stop before they reach the parliament and palace complex. Apparently even the SPG - which provides security to the Prime Minister of India, does not go onto Parliament grounds.

Still with that one exception it sounds as if security in Mumbai and New Delhi was at the highest levels for the U.S. President. Interestingly enough, the area outside of the Indian parliament was being continuously monitored for chemical and biological agents. The article I saw didn't go into detail, but it sounded like security personnel were using chemical sensors around the Indian Parliament to detect any dangerous elements in the air.

Chemical senor technology is getting increasingly sophisticated and being used in more environments. It is not only being used in chemical facilities but also in airports, subways, maritime ports and public buildings. These new sensors go way beyond x-ray or trace technologies. They are electronic sensors that can recognize the different characteristics or fingerprint of odors, gases and fragrances and can identify potentially hazardous elements in the air. This type of technology allows for the quick and real time screening of facilities, plants, public transportation systems and cargo and mail.

As we saw with the recent explosives sent from Yemen into this country, being able to quickly identify potentially dangerous shipments is essential. Sensors can help to uncover explosives, hazardous substances, and illegal drugs or drug shipments. They are versatile and becoming more portable, so they can be taken to the areas where they are needed. Additional research holds the promise for rapidly increasing sensitivity, better access and decreasing costs for the technology.

In the case of the President's trip to India, it is interesting that chemical threats seem to have become as important as conventional weapons. It is most likely that the most sophisticated technology available was deployed for this event and I believe we can expect to see this type of security tool used more regularly.


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