Suicide bomber sensors would not reduce casualties

06/29/05

Sensors to detect suicide bombers before they can reach a target and detonate explosives would not substantially reduce deaths and injuries in urban settings, Yale researchers report in the July early edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

"Widespread deployment of suicide bomber detectors would at best save a few lives," said Yale Professor Edward H. Kaplan, who co-authored the study with Moshe Kress. "A more promising strategy is to invest available resources in gathering intelligence to intercept suicide bombers before they attack."

"The sensing devices currently available are very expensive and are not sensitive enough to justify widespread deployment," added Kaplan, the William N. & Marie A. Beach Professor of Management Sciences and Professor of Institutional Social Political Studies at Yale, and professor of Public Health at Yale School of Medicine.

Kaplan and Moshe Kress, professor of operations research at the Naval Postgraduate School, studied the operational effectiveness of sensor-based detectors by modeling and comparing pedestrian suicide bombing attacks on random crowds in two urban settings-- a grid of city blocks and a large, open plaza. The team assessed the probability of detecting a bomber in a timely fashion and calculated the expected numbers of casualties that would result with and without intervention.

The researchers found that the sensors could detect attackers in a timely fashion, but such performance required a dense field of sensors capable of detecting attackers in at least 70 to 80 percent of the terrain. To translate detection into fewer casualties, intervention (fleeing, falling to the ground) must occur quickly. The team found that in some cases, intervention could modestly reduce casualties, but in other situations, interventions could create even more casualties, as people fleeing from a crowd tend to spread out and increase the probability of being exposed to bomb fragments.

In a previous study, Kaplan found that the most successful counter-tactic employed by Israel in combating suicide bombings was intelligence-driven arrests of terror operatives and suspects.

Source: Eurekalert & others

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