Home Interviews THMG137 – TATP Techniques with Dr. Mike Logan

THMG137 – TATP Techniques with Dr. Mike Logan

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In this episode, Bob and Mike discuss how to destroy TATP with Dr. Mike Logan. They focus on describing an approach to destroying organic peroxides (like TATP) by directly aspirating the solution into a propane flame so it can be combusted immediately and completely. There are no waste products using this process.

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Complete Show Notes

2:05 Introduction to Dr. Mike Logan

  • Director of the Research & Scientific Branch of Queensland (Australia) Fire & Emergency Services
  • Single state fire service – response area is one-third the size of the United States
  • Close to 2,000 stations serving a population of 5 million people
  • Employs 5,000 permanent part-time firefighters and around 40,000 volunteers
  • Also employ 7 scientists in the department, along with 60 volunteers
  • Mike’s group provides scientific and technical expertise to resolve hazardous materials incidents
  • Also lends their expertise to other states in Australia and also New Zealand

4:15 TATP in Australia

  • People are making it themselves, along with detonators and other explosives – sometimes selling them
  • Police take the lead if they’re dealing with a device, and Mike’s team provides backup – if it’s the material itself, the fire service takes the lead and works in collaboration with the police
  • Found in apartments, houses, by the side of the road, in schools, etc. – it’s very prevalent

5:45 General Overview of TATP

  • TATP (triacetone triperoxide or acetone peroxide) is an organic peroxide considered to be a primary explosive
  • Has no industrial uses
  • Very sensitive to friction and chemical impact – doesn’t take much of either of these to detonate
  • Around 1 gram of TATP will detonate

7:00 Existing Techniques for Handling TATP

  • Method 1: Dilute material in a solvent, burn it, put it in a flash pan and put a match to it, and allow it to burn off
  • Rules exist for how much material can be in the pan at one time
  • Method 2: Neutralize it using reducing agents or metals – play with its chemistry to kill it
  • These techniques are practiced in controlled/industrial environments, so they’re not necessarily helpful with TATP
  • Also troublesome if you’re dealing with a closed container – don’t know how much TATP is in there
  • Explosion risk becomes even more dangerous depending on the material of the container (glass, metal, etc.)
  • Pure is more desirable for nefarious individuals because there’s less of a risk it will detonate accidentally

13:10 New Techniques for Handling TATP

  • Queensland brings together the expertise of individuals from a variety of departments to assess the situation and come up with the best plan of attack
  • Start by determining whether it’s TATP
    • They’ve used a PID to presumptively identify TATP (correction factor of only around 1)
    • They’ve also used a gas phase infrared to identify it (correctly differentiated it from acetone)
    • Also detectable via infrared Raman
  • Then, assess where/how you’ve found the TATP
    • Open container, line/pile, or closed container
    • Closed containers obviously present the biggest risk to responders – think of these in the same way you would IEDs
    • We don’t want to be playing with solid TATP since there’s more of a friction/disturbance risk
    • Industry is usually using liquids (like diesel) as solvents – this is also the ideal phase when dealing with TATP
  • Conclude by determining the best method for destroying the TATP
    • After TATP is in solution and removed from the scene, it’s safe for firefighters and law enforcement personnel to enter
    • Old technique of pan burning was troublesome because you were left burning a 100% organic peroxide – solution method resolves this problem
    • Similarly, the old chemical technique took a long time and could require a variety of highly specialized chemicals
    • You can also inject it into a very hot flame (use LPG to create flame) – it’s in solution (organic peroxide & diesel) at this point, so it will aspirate

24:35 Determining Whether a Substance is TATP

  • If you don’t have robust resources, you may not be able to definitively identify a substance as TATP
  • At this point, it’s time to call in backup and get help from the experts – get chemists who specialize in explosives involved immediately
  • Dr. Logan recommends having good relationships with experts in your response area so you can work with them quickly and efficiently

31:40 How to Contact Dr. Logan

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