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Montgomery County police use new devices to detect radiation

Monday - 9/10/2012, 5:50pm  ET

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Sgt. Kevin Parker shows the pager-like radiation detector officers wear on their belts. (Special to WTOP/Marlena Chertock)
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Hank Silverberg, wtop.com

ROCKVILLE, Md. - Montgomery County police are using personal radiation detectors during increased patrols as the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks approaches.

The devices, which have only been in use for a few months, resemble phone pagers. Police are using them as they patrol crowded commuter trains, airports and other areas where large numbers of people gather.

"Power, water treatment, places of worship, government buildings - there's a lot of significant locations," says Sgt. Kevin Parker of the Montgomery County police department.

The device is worn on the officers' belts and can vibrate or create a beeping sound, though Parker says vibration and lights are the preferred alert message so the public is not alarmed.

Chris Bohrer, a Montgomery County police officer, says during the few months they've used the devices in places like Metro stations or large gatherings, there has only been one alarm. It went off for a medical patient who had recently been treated with radiation.

When the device's alarm sounds, there is a second device that can be used to detect what type of radiation is nearby and how much. That information can determine if there should be an evacuation or other type of response.

Parker says they would most likely call on the federal government for help if the device detected a significant response.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)