I had an interesting ride on the DC metro this morning. The train car I entered had a Metro transit security officer on board, and about a minute after I got on, he notified a guy who was standing right next to me that the guy was triggering his Radiation Detection Pager (I believe it was this model). Its reading jumped rapidly from a level of ‘1’ to a level of ‘5’. The officer began asking him a number of questions. Did you have an x-ray or other medical treatment recently? No. Do you have a smoke alarm with you? No, he said, but I had changed the battery on it within the previous day. Do you have anything else on your person that might set this off? No. He then waived the radiation detector again, showing him clearly that something on his person – not in his bags – was setting this off.
The train arrived at the next station, and the two of them got off and he waved the radiation detection over him again out on the platform. The passenger got back on the train, and the officer left the car – there was some kind of medical emergency elsewhere on the train – and that was it. End of incident.
As far as I could tell, the officer never resolved why the radiation detector was going off near the guy. And he did not ever ask the man his name, or take down any other personal information.
Is this the right way to deal for Metro officials to deal with incidents such as this? Wouldn’t a better response have been to stay with the guy until this was resolved, and take down his personal information – and if necessary, send an FBI agent out to his primary residence to see if there were any abnormal readings of radiation?
There’s at least a 99% chance that this was unconnected to any malicious threat. But in spite of those odds, I don’t think it was right to simply let this pass without taking further action (at the very least getting his name). And not only for terror-related reasons, but also for public safety purposes – perhaps the guy was being exposed at home or elsewhere, without his knowledge, to some dangerous source of radiation.
So what’s the story? How often do these ‘detections’ occur on the Metro? (I’ve traveled on the metro at least a thousand times in the last few years, and have never witnessed an incident like this before). What’s the policy to deal with them? Was this response within that policy?