Majority of Kenyans are familiar with hand-held metal detectors, the little black gadgets with the word “GARRET” printed in bold yellow letters. Metal detectors are popular with security guards at supermarkets, shopping malls, shops and other buildings. At the entrance of every shop and building around the corner, you will find a security guard ready to screen you using a metal detector. Public transport operators have resorted to using them to screen passengers before they board vehicles. This was after improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were planted and exploded in several public service vehicles within Nairobi.

This is a positive proof that the level of alertness among Kenyans has increased tremendously. However, there are concerns over whether these gadgets are being used in the right way. It is also possible that some security guards use hand-held detectors just for the sake of it. Screening of people at entrances to public places is a popular security measure taken across the country. It is meant to prevent terrorists and other
criminals from sneaking-in explosives or get into a building while carrying concealed weapons. The idea is good only that few people know how to implement it properly.

A hand-held metal detector is a device that is designed to find metallic objects hidden within someone’s body. The gadget is used by sweeping it over a person’s body. When it detects a metallic object, the device gives a beeping sound to alert the person doing the search. Metal detectors were originally designed
to be used for boosting security at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, USA. Their effectiveness generated interest across security service providers. The scanner consists of a detection area, a rubber weatherproof handle, on and off button, a battery cover and a wrist strap. There are also three bright LED
lights located near the on/off button: a green ready light, low battery light and an alarm light.

Hand-held metal detectors can detect a pistol from a distance of 9 inches, a knife from 6 inches and razor blades from 3 inches. They are also capable of detecting tiny jewelry, keys, coins and all manner of metallic objects. The LED color indication works as follows:

  • Green light: Indicates that the gadget is switched on
  • Amber light: Alerts the user when the detector is low on battery
  • Red light: Flashes on whenever a metallic object is detected

An eliminator button, when depressed, helps detect real metal in objects such as those coated with plastic. Examples include key tags, laptops, cell phones, watches etc. This assures security personnel that they have conducted a clean sweep on a person. Metal detectors also release a sharp alarm audible enough
to alert the operator of the presence of metallic objects on a person’s body. Some detectors have an added vibration feature that security personnel can use if they feel that the beeping sound is irritating them or for discrete screening purposes. In Kenya, the most popularly used hand-held metal detectors are the Super Scanner and SuperWand versions. There is also the THD hand-held metal detector that is yet to gain root.

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