Defining requirements for chemical, biological, and radiological detection systems from a commander's perspective – The importance of reliable information and Bayes' Theorem


  1. Dooley, P.
Corporate Authors
Defence Research and Development Canada, Centre for Operational Research and Analysis, Ottawa ON (CAN)
Effective CBRN defence requires detection systems that provide commanders with timely and reliable warnings, when harmful releases of chemical, biological, or radiological (CBR) agents or toxic industrial materials (TIMs) occur. Thus, when contemplating the procurement or development of such systems, force developers should understand how reliable these warnings must be, in order to inform a commander’s decision making well – and should state it as a formal requirement. To facilitate that, we have approached the problem of defining detection system requirements from a commander’s perspective. In this report, we show how Bayes’ Theorem can be used to calculate a detection system’s reliability, based on its technical characteristics and intended operational setting. We also demonstrate two practical methods for calculating a potential system’s maximum acceptable false positive probability, based on the minimum reliability that a commander will tolerate. Moreover, we illustrate how a potential buyer, who eschews such reliability calculations, might fail to recognize the unsuitability of an unreliable detection system. Finally, we explore various other considerations of relevance to force developers, concerning human factors as well as the design and evaluation of such systems.

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chemical;biological;radiological;nuclear;agents;CBRN;detectors;detection systems;requirements;Bayes' Theorem;operational research;operational analysis;information;reliability;force development
Report Number
DRDC-RDDC-2015-R078 — Scientific Report
Date of publication
01 May 2015
Number of Pages
Electronic Document(PDF)

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