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Guide for the Selection of Commercial Explosives Detection Systems for Law Enforcement Applications: NIJ Guide 100-99

NCJ Number
Date Published
December 1999
124 pages

This document presents information for use by police agencies in selecting explosives detection techniques and equipment for different applications, based on research conducted by the Office of Law Enforcement Standards of the National Institute of Standards and Technology under NIJ sponsorship.


The research included a market survey of all trace and x-ray-based commercial detection systems known to the authors as of October 1998, including company contact information and data on each system's cost, size, and uses. The survey focused on portability, the type of item being screened, the cost range, and the throughput rate. The report also includes information on some additional novel detection technologies and on standard techniques such as canine and physical search. Brief technical discussions are presented that consider the principles of operation of the various technologies as well. These include suggested technologies for portable, semi-portable, and fixed-site applications; the desirable characteristics for different types of explosives detection equipment for police work; and the calibration of explosives detection systems. A protocol is also presented for the evaluation of commercial trace detection systems. Readers are warned not to buy bogus explosives detection equipment. They are advised to determine their intended applications, consult the document's tables related to systems for each level of portability, examine choices the table presents for potential systems for each situation, and contact the vendor or the document authors for additional information. It concludes by noting that explosives detection technologies are constantly being improved and expanded. Therefore, it is important to consult with product vendors and outside experts before making a major procurement decision. Tables; photographs; and appended glossary, discussion of the nature and effects of different types of explosives, and list of 62 suggested readings

Date Published: December 1, 1999