AMERICA AGAINST TERRORIST ATTACK
Bombs Away: Getting a Unique Education at the Hazardous Devices School
A message comes
in out of the blue: a caller says he has planted a pipe bomb at a busy
strip mall. The bomb squad rushes to the scene. They quickly find a suspicious
backpack left underneath a stairwell. They analyze it. Looks like a bomb,
all right, and it could go off at any moment. They carefully disable
the bomb ... just in time.
A scene from
a Hollywood drama? Nope. Just another
day of training at the Hazardous Devices School,
or HDS, an FBI/U.S. Army facility at the Redstone
Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama.
What is the
HDS? It's the place where the nation's 2,600 bomb technicians
are trained and certified—the only world class caliber institution
of its kind in the U.S.
Who attends? Those
assigned to accredited bomb squads or managing them: fire fighters, police
officers, FBI Agents, and other federal investigators. More than 7,500
first responders have completed the Basic course alone since HDS opened
in 1971. Just this past year, over 1,250 were trained at the facility.
What do they
learn? From A to Z: The fundamentals of explosives. How to recognize,
assess, and render safe hazardous devices. Post-blast investigations
(what exploded and why). Decontamination and disposal procedures. Basic
electronics. Fragment analysis. The latest on protective clothing. Specialty
courses on state-of-the-art robots (see above photo). For executives,
the ins and outs of managing a bomb squad. And cutting edge counterterrorism
bomb training on how to respond to suicide attacks, large vehicle bombs,
weapons of mass destruction, and mortar attacks.
Not just classroom
training. Following a recent $25 million facelift, the nearly
300-acre campus includes 14 mock training "villages" that mirror
real-life environments: bus and airline terminals, homes, apartments,
a church, a warehouse, a bank, a strip mall, and a gas pipeline. Practical
exercises now present challenges like curbs, steps, windows, and tight
places that bomb techs—and their robots—might run into.
What's the FBI's
role at HDS? Not only do we fund and administer the facility,
we help the U.S. Army develop the best possible training by sharing our
analysis of counterterrorism trends. We also provide standardized equipment
and gear to the over 400 bomb squads nationwide.
The bottom line
benefits? For one, bomb techs across the U.S. are better prepared
to prevent and respond to attacks by terrorists and criminals. In addition,
they build partnerships with each other—creating a professional
cadre of experts who are conduits of intelligence and good to have around
in a crisis.
War on Terror | Remarks
by FBI Executive Grant Ashley at the Opening of the FBI Hazardous Devices