The New York City Police Department will be staging a fake bio-terror attack
over the summer, releasing non-toxic gas throughout the city's subway system to help authorities better understand the risks.
The test will be conducted over three non-consecutive days in July, during which time travelers shouldn't notice the odorless, invisible tracer gas.
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The gas, known as per fluorocarbons, will be released in various subway lines and stations throughout the city, according to the NYPD.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency considers per fluorocarbons to be "greenhouse gases," some of which are harmful to the environment, its website says. However, the NYPD's statement characterized per fluorocarbon tracer gases as harmless.
The citywide test is part of a study called "SAFE (Surface Air Flow Exchange) for Subway" and will be funded by a $3.4 million Department of Homeland Security Transit Security Grant, according to officials.
The test will be conducted with the help of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory, the Daily News reported.
"The NYPD works for the best, but plans for the worst when it comes to potentially catastrophic attacks such as ones employing radiological contaminants or weaponized anthrax," Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said in a statement. "This field study with Brookhaven’s outstanding expertise will help prepare and safeguard the city’s population in the event of an actual attack."
As the gas is released, approximately 200 air-sampling tracking devices will measure how the material spreads through the system. The drill will help local authorities understand how a potential chemical spill in the tunnel system would work so they can optimize their contingency plans, officials say.
"This study will bolster the NYPD’s understanding of contaminant dispersion within the subway system as well as between the subway system and the street, thereby improving its ability to better protect both our customers and the city population at large," said Fernando Ferrer, acting chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which is assisting in the tests.
The study is "the first of its scale to study airflow in a dense, complex urban environment both below and above-ground," the statement said.
The tests are not expected to cause traffic delays, and the public will be made aware of the tests before they are conducted, police say.
In 2005, a similar study was performed in Manhattan, as well as in Boston and Washington, D.C.
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