Sergeant Rangel spoke to our citizens’ academy class about the BPD’s Bomb Squad. Until three years ago, the bomb squad was just a part-time team. They are now a full-time squad, receiving 350-400 calls for service a year. Of those hundreds, only about 5 tend to be considered legitimate threats. There are seven bomb squads throughout the state of Maryland. The state Fire Marshall is responsible for other Maryland counties lacking a bomb squad. The FBI actually controls bomb squads nationally and determines the number of squads needed.
The Bomb Squad covers over 150 special events a year, including football games, 5k runs, and dignitary visits. Locally, they provide support for 80 Orioles games a year, 10 Ravens games, Preakness & Black-eyed Susan events, 20 festivals, and 50 races/parades.
They provide support to the SWAT team and handle booby traps and explosive breaching (using explosives to breach an entrance) and sometimes use robots that can handle, remove, and disarm a bomb. The Bomb Squad also responds to calls regarding clandestine drug labs. Additionally, they provide classes on suspicious packages during police training.
For special events, bomb squads are involved in planning, design, prevention, and coordination of Fire, EMS, and Security teams. It generally takes about 16 hours for them to sweep large areas like stadiums.
Bomb squads receive extensive training through the FBI. The FBI provides all bomb squads with a federally funded 6 week Hazardous Device School (HDS), located in Huntsville Alabama. After the September 11th attacks, we saw a surge of training for bomb technicians.
In addition to the 6-week FBI/HDS training, bomb squad officers receive 3 weeks of SWAT training, 1 week of Hazmat training, and 1 week of ClanLab training (clandestine lab) through the DEA. The ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) provides 2 weeks of Advanced Explosive Detection Training (AEDT), 1 week of Home-made Explosive (HME) training, 1 week of post-blast investigation training, and 1 week of explosive breaching training.
On top of all of this, the FBI also provides advanced training: 1 week -Advanced Electronics, 2 weeks-Tactical Bomb Tech, 1 week-Vehicle-borne IED Countermeasures, 2 weeks- Electronic Countermeasures, 1 week- Maritime Operations, 1 week- WMDs and 1 week-Manual/Hand Entry (like in the movies).
Bomb Squad officers are constantly training. Once trained, officers are required to complete 8 hours of HAZMAT recertification every year, and 1 week of HDS recertification every 3 years, including a minimum of 16 hours of training every month. Trainings for special areas require quarterly re-training.
The Bomb Squad may have some of the neatest equipment, including robots, digital x-ray machines the size of an iPad (at $40k a pop) and a Total Containment Vessel- a large ball in which a bomb is placed once found.
The portable X-ray machines are made from LOGOS, a subsidiary of Northrop Grumman. You could see models similar to what they showed us here. Robots can be used remotely. With two robots, they can take x-rays remotely of any suspected bombs. Who doesn’t love robots? (Well, besides nervous futurists. And people losing their jobs.) If a robot is unavailable, they may use a rigging device with ropes and pulleys in order to move a bomb. The bomb squad also employs bomb disruptors that shoot water into a bomb to defuse it.
Officers are also equipped with 94-pound bomb suits made of Kevlar, steel plates and hard plastic to protect the spine. these suits protect from fire, blasts, bomb fragments, and blunt trauma. However, they do not protect from strong blast waves, which still go through the suit and could cause the organs to move around inside the body. Bomb suits expire every 7 years and cost about $37k each.