Saturday, July 21, 2018

Getting a Weird Substance in the Mail: Hazmat

So this is a tale of how I spend a rainy Saturday afternoon and what I learned about the Gemini Analyzer which is pretty darned cool.

My husband came into my office with this little packet in his hands.
"Your powder came in."
Hubby, "Not your powder, huh?"
Me, "Put it down and go wash your hands."

Then we went through some back and forth that lead me to understand why women live so much longer than men. He suggested we smell it, taste it, take it out of the bag and take a closer look at it. Uhm, no.

What I did was do what I normally do when I'm at a loss, I turn to social media -- I follow and am followed by a lot of people whose job it is to deal with weird stuff. And there, it was suggested I take the bag to a fire department.

Ta Da! I had a plan.

It just so happens that I live up the street from a fire department that is uniquely qualified to deal with such a problem. It has a hazmat unit.

I've been there before when I was in the Citizen's Fire Class, and they have a most excellent fire pole, which they refused to let me try. But I digress.

No one at the fire station wanted to touch the bag. They thought my touching the bag was just fine. 

We tried searches on the barcode, the mailing address, and so forth. We talked about my kids and whether or not they might be playing around on the dark web (that's a big nope).

We were filling time, waiting for the three police officers to arrive. (One was called, two were curious so they came over to watch.) We were also waiting for their hazmat guy to put on his hazmat suit. and get his Gemini calibrated.

The Gemini:

Their website says this machine can: 
Identify a broad range of unknown chemicals and explosives in the field quickly, safely, and confidently using FTIR and Raman spectroscopy in a single instrument. The Thermo Scientific™ Gemini™ Analyzer is the first to integrate these complementary and confirmatory chemical identification techniques in a rugged, lightweight, handheld solution. Available with the HazMasterG3™ decision support system from Alluviam LLC, Gemini gives military personnel, bomb technicians, hazmat teams and first responders significant tactical advantage, helping them minimize time on target and confidently make life-saving decisions.

If you're wondering what Raman spectroscopy is: 
Here you go:

And if you're yearning for more information on FTIR, here you go!

My fire department said their Gemini machine cost about $35,000. But for safety's sake? It's well worth it.

The Gemini is:

  • a modular system
  • touch screen
  • 2 kilos
  • military tested for ruggedness
  • Identifies unknown solids and liquid


This is it in use

I'm just going to say - the guys below are difficult to watch because they don't behave profesionally BUT there are episodes (titled Not In The Manual: An EOD Series) 6,7, and 8 where they address the Gemini that gets into specifics that you might want to use in your writing.

To end my story,
The Gemini failed to identify the substance. The police confiscated it and the bag it came in. The police hazard's officer was going to destroy it properly. They took a report and, well, the first responders got to have a little fun so it wasn't wasted time.

So I'll tack on here that through social media and this episode, I also learned about a new scam called "brushing." I'll just share here what it is:

From the FindLAw website: Fake Sales
Forbes explains brushing through the recent experience of Pennsylvania resident Heaven McGeehan, who was getting small epackets postmarked from China "at least one a day":
Basically, a "brushing" firm somehow got hold of McGeehan's name and address -- she imagines this happened from placing legitimate orders on AliExpress, the international wing of China's Alibaba -- and then created user profiles for "her" on the e-commerce sites that they wish to have higher sales ratings and favorable reviews on. They then shop for orders via the fake account, compare prices, and mimic everything an actual customer would do, before finally making a purchase from their client's store. When delivery is confirmed, they then leave positive reviews that appear to the e-commerce platform as "verified."
The scam allows retailers to fake both sales figures and positive reviews. This is a big deal for sellers on e-commerce sites, who want to appear near the top of the site's rankings in order to boost legitimate sales.
I'm really hoping we didn't get tangled up in a brushing scheme and someone just accidently sent us a bag of weirdness.

As of tonight, I can report that all is well and neither my husband nor I have sprouted horns or gotten big green welts. But I still wonder what the heck was in that bag.

Cheers until next time!

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