Have you had to respond to a possible clandestine meth lab or a chemical suicide or maybe just a strange smell? Morphix Technologies has developed a unique armband kit that detects toxic gases to protect first responders.
The Morphix Chameleon is a chemical detection unit that is worn on the forearm or attached by Velcro to the uniform of a first responder. The purpose of the kit is to provide an officer, firefighter, or soldier with immediate visual identification of the presence of hazardous gases.
A passive detector, the Chameleon has ten windows, called cassettes, which change color when exposed to certain chemicals. The Chameleon can be configured for Clan-Meth Lab, Chemical Suicide, or Haz-Mat detection by simply changing the cassettes.
The kit is easy for an operator to use. Once strapped on, the officer needs only to glance at it to be alerted. The cassette windows start out a single color. If a cassette changes to two colors, it has been exposed to the toxic chemical.
No power source is required. The cassettes have chemically reactive strips inside that remind me of “litmus paper” from junior high school Chemistry.
I found the Chameleon to be very unobtrusive. The face of the kit measures 3 7/8” X 2 ¾.” The entire armband weighs less than two ounces. The strap is adjustable up to 14” in circumference. A larger 18” armband is available.
The cassettes for each different type of hazard are individually pre-packaged, so the user just inserts all the cassettes in the armband and he or she is ready to go. Initially enclosed in foil, the cassettes are loaded just prior to deployment.
Once opened, the cassettes have a 24-hour service life. They also remain viable after salt or fresh water immersion for up to one hour. Overall cassette shelf life at room temperature is 24 months.
I recently received this Chameleon test kit. A month ago, it is something that an officer could have used at a reported meth lab in one of our apartment complexes. I have also been involved in search warrant services with SWAT where a suspected lab was in operation. Detectors such as these could provide a valuable safety warning to officers.
In a previous article on Chemical Suicides, we talked about detection on the approach to one of these scenes. This product would definitely assist in that. In my area, we are lucky to have a Fire Rescue Haz-Mat response in mere minutes. Not all officers are as fortunate.
Since I can’t just stand back and not give something a try, I used the included test kit in my secret lab. The enclosed chemical training vials set off the cassettes appropriately.
In further experimentation, I found that, in less than 5 seconds, the Chameleon’s Chemical Suicide pack detected a vapor concentration of a common household chemical (no, I’m not going to say what) and gave a bi-color alert on one of the cassettes.
(Blaring disclaimer: I am not Haz-Mat trained, nor am I a chemist. I cannot speak to the absolute accuracy of any kit like this. As usual, do your research and consult with the proper subject matter experts before using a product such as this in the field.)
I found Morphix Chameleon starter kits with one armband and packs for either Clan-Lab or Haz-Mat with ten cassettes each (ten uses) for under $200.00 on-line. Cassette refill packs were about $150.00 for a ten-use kit. For fifteen bucks an incident, I’d say that was well worth the money.
Officers are continuing to confront more complicated survival scenarios for each day’s pay. Every bit of training and tools we can find to mitigate these risks is a bonus for our safety and the safety of our citizens.
Randall is a twenty-three year sworn police officer in a mid-sized Florida police department. He has been an FTO, K9 Handler, Detective, and SWAT Team Leader. He is currently the Midnight Shift K9 Sergeant and department SWAT Coordinator.