Officials will disperse the “tracer gases” through subway tunnels across the city three times over the next 20 days. The NYPD hopes to learn how airborne contaminants can travel through the city’s subway grid and develop emergency responses based on the results.
“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.
The information will also be useful for non-terrorist situations, NYPD spokesman Paul Browne added.
Roughly 200 sampling devices will be spread across all five boroughs in underground and street-level stations during testing days, according to sources. The devices will be clearly marked and secured in stations, street lights and hand-carried by researchers, to be removed after tests are over.
Officials say the project is funded by a $3.4 million federal grant.
The gas will be released during daylight hours on three different days, selected based on the weather conditions. The research requires average weather, without rain and heavy winds, said Kay Cordtz of the Brookhaven National Laboratory, which is doing the study.