Soon, Delhi police vans will detect radioactive leaks
Keeping in mind regular warnings by intelligence agencies in the country about probable chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear (CBRN) strikes by terror outfits, the Delhi Police will soon have in its police control room (PCR) vans a device that would alert wherever radioactive readings are above normal or beyond permissible levels.
The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has already received a prototype of the device and is in talks with the police to install it. In the first phase, the device will be installed in 60 PCR vans.
The Mobile Radiation Detection System (MRDS) initiative, as it is termed, was taken after a number of incidents in the capital sparked panic about radioactive contamination. Senior officers said the police are now concerned over the chances of such dangerous substances getting released either due to accidents or subversive activities by miscreants.
In 2016, Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International airport’s cargo terminal had to be shut twice — with operations being put on hold — after suspected leakage from radioactive cargo containers.
In both the incidents, the leak was later declared as hoax by agencies such as the NDMA, the National Disaster Response Forces (NDRF) and the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board of India (AERB).
The April 2010 Mayapuri leakage that claimed one life and left eight others contaminated also called for such preventive initiatives, officials maintained.
“In the Mayapuri incident, one person, who was exposed to high radiation, died due to acute respiratory distress syndrome and multi-organ failure. Eight others were hospitalised after they were exposed to cobalt-60, a radioactive element. The incident highlights the current gaps in the knowledge, infrastructure and lack of clarity in regulation in radiation safety,” said a senior NDMA officer.
Taking these incidents as a wake-up call, the NDMA initiated the CBRN emergency management programme to enable national-level preparedness to cope with such emergencies.
The MRDS is a pilot project to train and equip police personal in select cities with radiation monitoring instruments and personal protective equipment (PPE).
“Delhi Police patrol vehicles will be equipped with a radiation detection system with alarms. Detection levels are set at pre-determined values. On getting an alarm, a radiation survey of the suspected object/location would be carried out by trained police personnel with radiation survey instruments,” the officer said.
The NDMA has trained a group of Delhi Police officers to tackle such emergencies until the specialist forces arrive. Their aim will be to detect the contamination and not let it spread.
Since the Delhi Police PCR van staff will be the first responders whenever a radioactive source is detected, their first job is to inform the unified commander at the emergency control room.
The Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) is the nodal agency for providing necessary technical inputs to the national and local authorities for responding to any nuclear or radiological emergency.
“The NDMA has also strengthened the national response capability by training a large number of trainers and first responders from the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), central paramilitary forces (CISF, ITBP, BSF and CRPF), police, fire services and from the medical fraternity,” the officer said.
Deputy commissioner of police and Delhi Police PRO Madhur Verma said in such cases, the police would only provide basic preparedness until the experts arrive the spot.
“Things are in process. The Delhi police will ensure zero panic as they will be the first responders at any such site from where these equipment will detect radiations. We will provide a ground for the agencies concerned to arrive and take over,” Verma said.