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January 24, 2005
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Shawn Hughes WMD and Bomb Disposal Issues
with Shawn Hughes

Using a new mindset: What we can learn from firefighters

Hi guys!
I hope this finds all of you winding down from an uneventful Christmas, and potentially an uneventful New Year.

I normally don't read a lot of stuff from the fire fighting magazines. (Maybe it's because they continually called me 'the blue canary' during all my haz-mat classes!) However, one of their articles caught my eye. In the WMD supplement for FireEngineering.com's November 2004's issue, Chase Sargent really nails it on the head. In his article, "Approach WMD Events with a New Mindset," he writes:

"I am convinced the fire service has lost
its collective mind. All of this money and
talk of terrorist attacks, the color-coded
alerts, and our scramble to obtain our
piece of the pie like seagulls fighting over
a piece of meat have turned our minds to
mush. Although it is likely that we will be
attacked again, and there is a high potential
that chemical, nuclear, or biological
agents supported by explosives or incendiaries
will be involved, we are not developing
practical, applicable, rapid, and rational
response procedures."

YES! In this era of overcomplicated procedures, and PowerPoint Rangers who rate their effectiveness by how many terms they coin, Sargent is exactly right. We don't need to see how many think-tanks, colleges, and startup companies can line up at the trough of WMD Funding. We need some simple, straightforward procedures and best practices that actually WORK in an incident.

We need a simple, secure way for people in departments across the country to share information. We need tools for detection that are accurate, and simple to operate. Most importantly, we need to address the fact that in a WMD incident, time is one luxury we don't have.

I think it is very forward-thinking writing, and I am happy to hear this type of mindset germinating over the fence with our brothers in high-visibility yellow. Go to their page and download the article. It is going to take more voices like these to incur changes.

On the topic of change, I normally don't like to air dirty laundry, but I see that the negative side of competitiveness has reared its' ugly head again.

A while back, I wrote a controversial article on the topic of the divisiveness that appears from time to time in the various facets of the bomb disposal industry for an industry publication. While I received many positive e-mails and phone calls on the topic, there were a couple of people with their heads in the sand that felt I was in error. Even with the examples I had provided, they didn't see any problems with inter-discipline (PSBT, EOD, & UXO) relationships.

I rip open this old wound again, as something that passed my e-desk caught my eye. This is from an NG EOD recruiting advertisement, written by a Lieutenant Colonel:

Assigned personnel are highly trained bomb technicians who attend approximately 38 weeks of intensive joint service training in explosives, bombs of every nation, improvised explosive devices, and nuclear weapons. By comparison law enforcement agency personnel attend a 6 week FBI Bomb Technician Course.

I can't find one compelling, non-competitive reason for this paragraph.

For those of you that may not understand the difference between an EOD technician [military] and a Public Safety Bomb Technician [civil authorities], and why there is such a gap in training time, PSBT's do not routinely handle military ordnance. The Dept. of Defense requests us to allow military EOD units to resolve those incidents. As a result, we don't carry the specialized tools for rendering safe munitions, and therefore do not need that block of instruction. In fact, many EOD Techs don't get the entire course of instruction, dependant on what their assignment is.

I have said it before, and I'll say it again; Federal law notwithstanding, some veterans find gaining employment with a Police Force difficult. I am NOT drawing a direct line between the two here, but I will say that making disparaging remarks about your civilian brethren and then trying to show up and ask for work aren't a winning combination. In sum, we ALL have our strengths and weaknesses. There aren't enough Bomb Techs in the world for us to have or tolerate petty rivalries.

Til next time ...


About the author

Shawn Hughes is an often controversial veteran Patrol Officer and Bomb Technician who now works for a Federal agency, but still consults for various agencies and private corporations when he isn’t writing or teaching. His articles have been published in three countries on two continents. He's written for the majority of law enforcement publications in the US, including the NTOA’s Tactical Edge, the IABTI’s Detonator, SWAT, Police, and others. His second book, on obtaining a job in Law Enforcement, is out now, with a third on lock technology in development. He can be reached at srh@esper.com .





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