Strategies for Zero False Negatives


J. Alvarez, M. Landis


Investigation strategies employ several approaches, but most seek to maximize the power of detection while limiting false positives and false negatives. False positives usually have the consequence of increasing the cost of the investigation because of retesting and/or unnecessary actions. False negatives generally have impacts on health, safety, or environmental degradation. Consequences of either often share elements of both. The case of investigating transport of hazardous materials for terrorist purposes may be a case of intolerance of false negatives. Unfortunately, intolerance for the smuggling of a nuclear device into the country does not lead to 100% deterrence of such smuggling. Near-zero false negatives might be approachable in some avenues. The port of Los Angeles receives roughly 10,000 cargo containers per day. A standard detection system of 80% power to detect and 5% for both false positives and false negatives yields 500 false positives a day. If one nuclear device were smuggled per day, then 0.8 would be detected and 0.2 missed. This could be interpreted that 50% would be detected. A combination of techniques may be necessary for in-depth investigation to ensure 100% detection.


This abstract was presented at the 38th Annual Midyear Meeting, "Materials Control and Security: Risk Assessment, Handling, and Detection", Advances in Instrumentation, Materials Detection and Measurement Session, 2/13/2005 - 2/16/2005, held in New Orleans, LA.

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