The Unique Job of a Bomb Technician

When asked about the exhibits in the National Law Enforcement Museum, something I like to talk about that tends to surprise people is the wide variety of jobs that exist within the law enforcement profession. While doing research for the Museum’s exhibits, one of my favorite things was (and still is) meeting and working with a variety of types of people to gain insight and expertise on the different aspects of law enforcement from those who live and work it every day.
One of the specialties I found particularly fascinating was Bomb Squads and the work of Bomb Technicians. Back in 2013, I had the opportunity to visit the FBI Hazardous Devices School, located at the Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama. It is where every Bomb Tech in the country, at every level (local, state, and federal), goes to be trained and recertified every three years. Here are few of the most surprising things I learned:
A bomb suit weighs around 75 lbs, but the goal is to never have to use it.
Never use a human when a robot will do. When possible, Techs will remotely control a robot to assess and render bombs safe. The robot’s claw acts as a hand and can be equipped with various tools including cameras, two-way microphones (for hostage situations) or a saw for cutting.
One common Bomb Tech tool is essentially a plastic water bottle.

Besides robots, heavy suits, and X-rays, Bomb Techs use different types of disruptors to render explosives safe. This water bottle, a projected water disruptor, is a common one. Techs fill the bottle with water, pack explosives in the center straw, add a detonator, and set it next to a real or potential bomb. When the bottle is detonated, the high pressure of the water inside will shred the bomb’s casing and sever any of the bomb’s internal connections before it can explode.
Bomb Techs have to be creative as well as technically skilled.
Besides having a working knowledge of how bombs and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) work and the variety of ways in which they can be put together, Bomb Techs also have to be able to think on their feet. Suspicious packages can show up anywhere, and preventing an explosion can require some creativity. Unlike TV and movies, not all bombs can be rendered safe just by cutting a red or blue wire.
Learn more about some of the unique science used by Bomb Technicians first hand during Science Saturday this weekend on January 26. The interactive program starts at 1:00 pm in the Learning Center. Price is free with admission. To get a ticket, click here.