NEW YORK — The Department of Homeland Security is releasing harmless gas in the New York City subway system to test the airflow in case of a possible chemical terrorist attack.
How does the general public in Grand Central Terminal or anywhere else in the subway system say something, if they cannot see something? This is the challenge in this day and age where chemical terrorist attacks have occurred or been attempted inside the subway systems of other cities.
However, there are ways to try and understand the behavior of the airflow within the subway system which is what the Department of Homeland Security is doing throughout the week.
"This is amazing," said David Brown, a research scientist with Argonne National Laboratory.
Brown is co-directing an experiment led by the Department of Homeland Security that consists of nearly 100 researchers making up approximately 40 teams. Throughout the week, they are releasing various vapors and particles into the air of the subway system. Brown said they are attempting to identify the answer to two primary questions: "Where it's going? How dilute does it become?"
Bob Ingram, a battalion chief with the FDNY's Center for Terrorism and Disaster Preparedness, said the data being generated through various yet harmless 20-minute releases into the air is pivotal for emergency preparedness.
"It is extremely beneficial. We can all think about how this behavior is going to be, but this test will hopefully have enough data to back it up with science," Ingram said.
For Brown, the opportunity to have a laboratory within the city's subway system for the week is what he lives for.
"This is the kind of work you don't get to to very often. We have been planning this for literally three years, this week of testing. So to actually come here, do it and have it working kind of like the way we had it planned, it feels really good. This is a very good day for me," Brown said.
The results will not take three years to produce, but they will not be overnight either — roughly six to eight months.
"It will take us a while to actually understand it. We have got to get it all together. I am sure it will answer some questions, it will open up others," Brown said.