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Naval Surface Warfare Center Indian Head Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technology Division (NSWC IHEODTD) Explosive Detection Equipment (EDE) Program concluded a weeklong, user-based scenario evaluation of colorimetric explosive detection kits at U.S. Army Blossom Point Research Facility, May 2.

Colorimetric detection technology is based upon a series of chemical reactions that produce a visual response, most often in the form of a color change. The reactions are dependent on the molecular structure of the compounds introduced to the colorimetric reagents.

Sponsored by the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO), the main goal of the week-long event was to collect data on performance, usability, type of users, and type of mission suitable for these kits that use a chemical reaction to produce a visual signal when explosives are detected. The event also allowed manufacturers receive feedback directly from end-users in a variety of realistic scenarios.

“We were able to bring in a variety of military EOD technicians and other government , entry control point personnel, forensic specialists, and law enforcement personnel who would actually use kits like these in the field - professionals who encounter explosives while performing their duties,” said Cristina Spencer, NSWC IHEODTD EDE program director.

The group included representatives from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), FBI, Department of Homeland Security, and the U.S. Marshals and all four services of EOD. The six companies providing demonstration products were ChemSpectra, DetectaChem, Field Forensics, Lindon Defense, Mistral Security, and Morphix Technologies.

During the five-day evaluation, participants operated a variety of colorimetric kits within the confines of realistic scenarios that were prepared by EDE Program members.

“The different scripts involved trace and visible amounts of actual explosives, as well as precursors and materials that have the potential to cause false alarms,” said Spencer. “We set up a backyard shed used to manufacture Homemade Explosives (HME), an event line in which people were being screened, and an Entry Control Point (ECP) at which vehicles are being screened. We also staged a suspected letter bomb at a mail screening facility, and conducted post-blast investigations.”

All the participants were trained how to use each of the colorimetric kits directly by manufacturer representatives. During the course of the weeklong evaluation, Spencer said that the users were also given plenty of opportunities to provide direct feedback to the manufacturers.

“Opportunities also were there to provide direct feedback to the manufacturers, which only enhances the communication process,” said Spencer. “End-user participation was critical in this evaluation, in order to assist the explosive detection community to establish standards that can be met by manufacturers and government agencies alike.”

NSWC IHEODTD - a field activity of the Naval Sea Systems Command and part of the Navy’s Science and Engineering Enterprise - is the leader in ordnance, energetics, and EOD solutions. The Division focuses on energetics research, development, testing, evaluation, in-service support, and disposal; and provides warfighters solutions to detect, locate, access, identify, render safe, recover, exploit, and dispose of explosive ordnance threats.

JIEDDO stands at the forefront of the war against improvised explosive devices, leading the nation’s and our allies’ charge to save life, limb and eyesight.

Blossom Point Research Facility is a 1600-acre U.S. Army site located 50 miles south of Washington, D.C., in Charles County, Md., with multifunctional test ranges supporting an average of 125 programs a year. Customers include Navy Research Laboratory, Consumer Product Safety Commission, Defense Threat Reduction Agency, Naval Surface Warfare Center, Army Research Laboratory, and U.S. Special Operations Command.