Magazine article Security Management

In the Can

Magazine article Security Management

In the Can

Article excerpt

Michael A Gips, senior editor

The Washington (D.C.) Metro system explains how it keeps a lid on the threat of explosives.

Haste makes waste, as the cliche, goes. But when that waste is an improvised explosive device placed in a public trash can, waste can certainly make haste. In fact, bombs placed in trash cans in Metro-rail stations have been a concern of the Washington (D.C.) Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (Metro), so much so that the system has invested in special bomb mitigating trash containers at select stations.

Metro was concerned that its multitude of trash cans spread across about 80 rail stations offered criminals a place to stash homemade bombs. Metro engineers determined that a bomb blast in a trash can would not only cause shrapnel to blow upwards, but would also cause parts of the metal trash can itself to blow outwards, creating potentially lethal projectiles.

During 1998 Metro started to examine its options. One possibility was to eliminate trash cans from its stations altogether. "We considered that, but discounted it for a multitude of reasons," says Geoff Hunter, captain in charge of counterterrorism development and infrastructure protection for the transit authority. The other option was blast mitigating containers.

Hunter and his staff found two such containers on the market, including one by Total Security Services International, Inc. (TSSI), of Marietta, Georgia. Metro engineers compared the explosives ratings of TSSI's Bomb Mitigation Container System against those of the other product, a trash receptacle made by Mistral Security. "We felt that the TSSI can was far superior and less expensive," Hunter says, pointing to its higher explosive rating and all-around better construction. The receptacles cost Metro about $900 each.

In March 1999, Metro began installing the cans in all of its public spaces, at entrances, on Metro train platforms, and on mezzanine levels, in three stations deemed to be likely targets: Pentagon, Capitol South, and Smithsonian. (Smithsonian also installed them in its bus bays.) Eighty-five cans, which are larger than typical Metro trash cans, were installed overall.

Each receptacle, which is 30 inches high and weighs hundreds of pounds, holds a 30-gallon rubber trash bin. The receptacle is composed of two layers of 3/8-inch steel with absorbent material between the layers. It has a steel lid (with an opening to insert trash), which is locked on, and a plastic lid on top of that, which disintegrates during a blast. …

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