A lot has changed at HDS in the last decades. Goetz attended the Hazardous Devices School in 1979. He says that when he started as a bomb technician, an explosives ordinance disposal (EOD) kit consisted of pliers, a knife, a roll of duct tape, and maybe a flak jacket, if you were lucky.
The emphasis back then was on hand-entry to disarm or render safe the explosive device. This meant the bomb technician was literally hands-on with the device as he or she attempted to disarm it. As you can imagine this put the bomb technician in significant danger.
Today, the emphasis is on remote entry. This means keeping the bomb technician away from the suspected device as much as possible.
Advances in technology have made remote entry possible and bomb techs much safer. Portable digital X-ray equipment, PAN disrupters, and bomb robots allow a suspected device to be inspected and manipulated remotely, thus reducing the bomb technician's "time on target."
Advances in technology have also resulted in bomb suits that provide a significant level of protection. This is a great leap forward in safety and a far cry from the flak jacket of a couple of decades ago.
Commander of the Denver Police Bomb Squad Sgt. Dave Marker feels that improvements in technology have certainly contributed to safer responses, not only for the bomb technician but also for the public.
However, Marker is quick to point out that while technology is great, it's still the human element that's the most important. Technology will never replace a bomb technician's good judgment, common sense, and experience.
Bomb Squad Accreditation
In addition to being Denver PD's Bomb Squad commander, Marker is also one of 12 voting members on the National Bomb Squad Commanders Advisory Board (NBSCAB). NBSCAB was established in 1998 to be a common voice for all the law enforcement bomb squad commanders from around the country.
NBSCAB has played a large role in advancing and standardizing the training and equipment of U.S. bomb squads. The group works closely with many federal agencies to ensure law enforcement bomb squads move into the future with better tools and training. Additionally, NBSCAB was instrumental in working with the Hazardous Devices School to push for the establishment of accredited bomb squads and also to certify bomb technicians.
Bomb squads must meet certain criteria in order to be accredited, including having specific, mandatory equipment depending on the size of the squad. One major change is that all accredited bomb squads must have a robot by 2009.
Today, there are more than 450 nationally accredited bomb squads in the United States and thousands of certified bomb technicians working on those squads.
Marker believes that the accreditation and certification process are a good thing because it means better interoperability between different bomb squads. It's much easier for teams to work together on a large scene when they share the same training and similar equipment. Marker has also noted a trend involving more collaboration between regional teams in terms of training. Again, if teams train together, chances are better that they'll work well together during a real incident.
This concept also integrates well into the National Incident Management System (NIMS), a 2004 directive from the Department of Homeland Security. At its core, the NIMS program was created to ensure a more effective, standardized multi-jurisdictional response to major incidents. If this incident involves explosives, then the incident commander knows that the EOD assets from various agencies can work together as a team.