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Potential Use of HAZMAT Gas Detectors for Detection of Accelerants Carried by Individuals

NCJ Number
Date Published
April 2014
9 pages
This addendum to a recent report on the "Assessment of Portable HAZMAT Sensors for First Responders" discusses whether or not HAZMAT gas detectors can be used to detect flammable accelerants on a person or in a vehicle.
Eleven Hazmat sensors were examined for their use in detecting fire accelerants, most of which are organic, with many being a mixture of organic compounds, which often do not have a well-defined formulation. Of the technologies examined photoionization detectors (PIDs) can detect a wide range of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are commonly used as accelerants. PIDs use ultraviolet (UV) light to ionize organic compounds in the sampled atmosphere. The ions are then detected by means of electrical signal. The detection of VOCs by PIDs is typically done in a few seconds. Although PIDs are unable to identify the chemical substance or make-up of the VOCs detected, they provide a signal that warrants further investigation. Arson investigation organizations are potential sources of information on accelerant detectors used after a fire has been extinguished. This equipment might also be useful in detecting accelerants carried by individuals. 1 table and 10 references

Date Published: April 1, 2014