Radiation detectors put to use at LAX

Saturday, July 16, 2016
Radiation detectors put to use at LAX
Hundreds of radiation monitors in use at LAX were demonstrated in a joint exercise Friday.

LOS ANGELES INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT (KABC) -- When you visit Los Angeles International Airport, you likely will not notice it.

As you travel through the airport, hundreds of monitors are sweeping for any radioactive material that could be converted into a terrorist weapon.

With funds from the Department of Homeland Security, multiple Southland agencies including the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and the County Department of Health came together Friday for a joint exercise.

They set up at the entry to LAX with a range of detection instruments.

Some travel as backpacks. Every officer carries a smaller one that is the size of a pager.

They travel through cargo areas and wherever there are bags and passengers.

"When they come near a source of some sort the number will start rising and it will alert the officer," said Lt. Masis Sossikian, Special Projects director for LA Airport Police.

The search for radiation goes beyond the terminals. Detectors are mounted on trucks that sweep an area that extends from the 405 Freeway all the way to the beach.

The checkpoints are scientifically randomized. The University of Southern California's Homeland Security Center provided a data-driven analysis to determine points of vulnerability.

"In a way that studies well over 100 different variables through a set of algorithms, it gives us the ability to see what our threat is," said Airport Police Chief Pat Gannon.

As demonstrated in Chernobyl, extreme radiation exposure can cause deadly cancer.

In New York, the FBI arrested two men in 2013 who built a radiation-emitting device. They had planned to aim it at their enemies.

In Mexico, an alert was raised when a truck was stolen carrying a radioactive isotope used in hospitals.

Intelligence analysts at the airport track potential threats from information gathered nationally and internationally.

The highly sensitive detectors can get readings even on people who are taking certain medication.

If you are stopped, officers just ask for your cooperation.