Walk-through metal detectors

September 2005 Access Control & Identity Management


During Department of Public Safety management meetings at the San Manuel Indian Nation Department of Public Safety, the topic of event security has arisen. The question of how best to ensure the safety of San Manuel patrons and event audiences was posed. The answer to this query must also include how to afford the maximum amount of protection with the least amount of intrusion, while at the same time allowing for the time constraints encountered while processing upwards of 3000 audience members.

The biggest threat to maintaining a safe venue is that of audience members taking in weapons. This threat is highest in the young adult age category. This is well evidenced by the 15 November 2004, stabbing in San Monica, California, at the US Vibe Awards and Concert. Hip-hop and rap concerts pose big security threats, while events such as boxing, ultimate fighting etc, also pose concerns.

Each type of event must be analysed for its particular security threat. This can easily be accomplished by a routine event threat analysis or threat assessment.

However, regardless of the type of event, it is incumbent upon San Manuel to take all reasonable steps to ensure the greatest level of safety for the audience and staff.

San Manuel has a vested interest to provide the safest atmosphere possible at our events due to our unique situation as a Native American operated casino and event venue. Any negative incident can be used to flame anti-casino sentiments, negative public relations and endanger the tribe's licences to hold these events and liquor licence.

Walk-through metal detectors

The key feature which places walk-through metal detectors at the top of our event security plans is their ability to process large amounts of people with a minimum of intrusion. Thus, having no negative effect upon the event's operation.

The price of walk-through metal detectors has come down drastically. Just 10 years ago when I researched walk-through metal detectors for the Orange County Jail System, units started at approximately $30 000.

These walk-through units can screen 30 to 50 people per minute depending on the sensitivity settings and the display settings. The San Manuel events venue holds a maximum of 3000 people. An event of this size would take approximately 15 to 25 minutes to process all 3000 people, using four machines.

The models considered for use at San Manuel were the more sophisticated 'multizone' types. These machines divide the human body into sectors. An LCD screen displays a likeness of the human form, and lights the portion of the body where the object is detected. This reduces the amount of time to physically use a metal detector wand to verify the presence of a potentially banned object. There are cheaper models without this zone technology, but I would not recommend them for this very reason.

Additionally, we only considered models that have sophisticated adjustable sensitivity levels. For example, the model demonstrated by Ranger was the Intelliscan 18 Zone Walk-Through Weapons Detector. Each of its 18 zones or quadrants has adjustable sensitivity levels. Remarkably, they can be adjusted as a whole or as an individual zone. The device also has 20 single-button pre-programmed sensitivity/weapons detection levels. The most commonly used, and would likely be used at San Manuel are the Public, Airport and Prison modes. The Public mode allows small metal objects such as watches, jewellery, change and small pocket knives through the device without setting off the alarm, while detecting larger objects such as larger knives and guns. The Airport mode allows smaller metal objects and small amounts of change to pass while detecting everything else. The Prison mode detects all metal. The trade-off in using the more sensitive settings is that it will result in more alarms and require more manual use of the metal detector wand.

The settings would be changed to suit the security threat of the event. If a performer who draws an older, less rowdy audience, such as Kenny Rogers were performing, the Public mode would be used. Whereas, if a performer who draws a younger, more rowdy crowd was performing; the Airport mode would be used. Lastly, if a performer or event that has a history of security problems such as ultimate fighting or a rap group was planned, the prison mode could be used.

The deciding factors

The Ranger Intelliscan 18 Zone Walk-Through Weapons Detector is used by the US Army, US Air Force, US Marine Corps, Universal Studios, UPS, State Prison Systems and many private corporations.

The detector is extremely simple to operate. Its settings are easily changed to meet the needs of any particular event, with a very minimum of training required to efficiently operate the machine.

The system's ability to pinpoint the detected object on an LCD display of a human body makes secondary use of the manual wand easily accomplished.

During the demonstration of the detector by the Ranger representatives, the most commonly used pre-set sensitivity levels were demonstrated. The machine's ability to reduce false alarms was impressive. Except on the most sensitive Prison setting, coins, belt buckles and other small objects did not set off the alarm, but still detected all weapons.

The detector weighs less then 60 kg. It is easily lifted by one person and can be easily transported. There are also optional wheels, which make moving even easier.

Homeland Security and terror threat level security

Current San Manuel policy is that when the US Department of Homeland Security's Terror Threat Level reaches orange or red, we search all patrons as they enter the casino. Due to time constraints, this search consists of a cursory search of bags, backpacks and purses.

During the demonstration, the use of the detector during orange or red threat levels was discussed.

It was agreed that the use of the walk-through weapons detector during these conditions would be preferable to current practice. The detectors would be less intrusive, faster and conduct a complete weapon search.

Lastly, it was a shared belief that the presence and use of these devices during heightened threat levels would serve to make the patrons feel safe and secure. - Lieutenant Robert Bollong

Ranger products are available locally through Emergency Reaction Services.

For more information contact Morris Maram, ERS, 011 234 6000, info@ersos.com, San Manuel Indian Nation Department of Public Safety, 091 909 864 0461, 091 909 864 5718, An Economic Development of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians.


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