In protecting public spaces such as buildings and aircraft from potential chemical or biological terror attacks, an ounce of prevention may be worth a pound of sensing. Since the 2001 anthrax attacks, research has focused on developing improved sensors to detect potential chemical or biological terror agents. But these devices themselves cannot head off terrorist attacks, and while they should be part of an overall protection strategy, reliance on such technology can create a false sense of security, warns a Georgia Institute of Technology researcher.
Protection for closed public spaces such as airport terminals and shopping malls therefore needs a new paradigm: a "systems engineering" approach, argues Jiri (Art) Janata, a Georgia Tech professor of chemistry who specializes in sensing and analytical instrumentation. That systems approach would include central command centers, response strategies tailored to the facility, protection of water and air circulation systems - and neutralizing and sterilizing chambers built into air-circulation systems to limit the spread of terror agents.