Bomb Squad: Edmond Police Department Gets New Equipment

There are no nostalgic feelings for the crammed space that used to be the Edmond Police Department’s old bomb truck. The department’s bomb squad has been using a new truck for a few months now, and they say it has made their work more efficient and the community safer, one threat at a time. The old truck was a 15-year-old blue ambulance purchased on eBay and modified for the squad. The new one is a custom-built vehicle, especially designed to meet the needs of the team. The truck cost about $130,000 and most was paid for through a grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

“It makes everything so much easier,” says Edmond Bomb Squad Commander Sgt. Jim Teel. “Everything stays in the truck. With the old truck, we had to unload everything and set it all on the outside so that we could work inside the truck.”

The truck is 25 feet long, has a ramp near the rear for the bomb robot, and all 10 squad members can comfortably fit inside. The truck also includes a work station with X-ray equipment, two olive green bomb suits worth about $20,000 each and a commercial generator that powers the electrical equipment in the truck. “We also have the capability to run on offshore power just like an RV,” Teel says. The truck was built by LDV USA in
Burlington, Wisconsin.

After a workshop meeting last spring with representatives from bomb squads across the state, the Edmond team decided it needed a new vehicle. The funds were allocated, the model and features were selected and soon the truck was ready. “We went to the factory to pick the truck up, like you do when you buy a new car, and drove it back home,” Teel says. “We picked it up November 4th, and it was available to be used by the 6th.”

When a 911 call about a bomb comes in, the senior person on duty responds and then contacts Teel. He determines how many members of the team need to be dispatched, according to the severity of the situation. “We have reached two to three calls a month. About a quarter of those calls are actual things,” Teel says.

The people who are responsible for the calls that are from all walks of life. “They range from kids that have watched something on the Internet and want to try it out, to meth users who are trying to scare people away. It’s literally all kinds of people.”

One of those calls came in last January. A man walked into the Oklahoma Fidelity Bank on Second Street, approached a teller and demanded money. The man told the clerk there was an explosive device in the bank. “We responded and set up a post just down the street,” Teel says.

The bomb squad did a sweep of the building using the robot and found it to be safe. The suspect was later arrested.

The robot, which travels on the truck with the crew, is a state-of-the-art ANDROS F6. It is among the most advanced of its kind and is used by the Army and the FBI. “It can fix things up, we can drag a body with it if we have to, it could be used for surveillance and obviously for bomb destruction,” Teel says. “With the camera, we can actually view things from over a half mile away.”

Teel, who has been a police officer for 22 years and served in the Army’s Artillery Unit for more than 12 years, is also a trained bomb technician and has approached many devices over the years. And even though he wears an 80-pound bomb suit with a front ceramic plate when he has to do the job, it is always a thrilling experience. “I remember the very first time when I did some demolition,” Teel says. “I just said a quick prayer, ‘Dear Lord, don’t let me screw this up.’”

When Teel is approaching a device, his main goal is to stay calm and not think about the outcome. “I’m concentrating on trying to figure out what it is, and how I’m going to take care of it,” he says. “I have to think about the task at hand.”

The bomb squad consists of five certified bomb technicians and five assistants, who underwent rigorous training. “They are some of the best officers that we have, they are great people and I’m very proud that they work for me,” Teel says. “We are all very best friends, too.”

And as far as the old truck, the Edmond Police dive- team now uses it as a response vehicle.

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