Edmond Bomb Squad
“It’s a blast being on the bomb squad,” says Sgt. Scott Fees of the Edmond Bomb Squad. But hopefully those blasts are planned. The squad, established in 1982, is one of only seven bomb squads in Oklahoma. Other squads include Norman, Midwest City, Tulsa, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma County, Oklahoma Highway Patrol and an Explosive Ordnance Disposal Unit at Fort Sill.
The Edmond Police Department provides the only Underwater Explosive specialist school in the nation. Technical Investigator Rockie Yardley, a founding member of the bomb squad, started the UERS school in Edmond when he discovered law enforcement needed trained bomb technicians who could safely recover items under water. Besides local calls, the Edmond UERS divers respond to out-of-state incidents. One call resulted in recovering 150 pounds of stolen explosives from a farm pond in rural Kansas.
“Edmond is very fortunate to have a premier bomb squad not just for Oklahoma but in the nation,” says Edmond Police Department’s Glynda Chu. “Other law enforcement agencies from around the world including the FBI, ATF and members of the U.S. Navy come to Edmond for the annual underwater explosives training by Rockie Yardley. We’re all safer in Edmond due in part to the Edmond Bomb Squad.”
The Edmond Bomb Squad includes five certified bomb technicians, five new technicians in training, one dog, one detective for follow-up investigations, and a robot. “The robot allows us to get close to bombs without endangering human lives,” says Fees. The $150 thousand robot was paid for by grants, as was much of the equipment used by the squad.
An eight-year veteran of EPD and bomb squad member since December 2008, Officer Christy Meadows is the first female bomb squad member in Oklahoma. But don’t think she received easier testing. The female bomb squad members receive the same rigorous training and testing as the male members. “The things I’ve started to see here and in Iraq made me think it was an important team to be on,” says Meadows. “I’m very proud to be part of it.”
The suit and helmet worn by squad members has a combined weight of 80 pounds. While wearing the bulky, cumbersome suit, technicians must also carry equipment such as an X-ray system weighing 20 pounds, disrupters and stands which weigh 20 – 50 pounds, power packs, cameras, communication systems, hand tools and rigging equipment. “Cool Suits” can be worn under the bomb suit but add another 20 pounds. Depending on the call, a self-contained breathing apparatus may be worn, adding another 30 – 40 pounds.
“It’s like carrying another person on your shoulders while you work on an explosive device. Now imagine doing that on a hot, humid Oklahoma summer day,” says Fees.
Many of the squad’s calls are from citizens who find war artifacts in their homes and attics. One family found 15 Japanese mortar rounds that a soldier shipped home during WW II. They were still in the box and were still live explosive rounds.
Individuals caught building bombs face felony charges, but there are no charges for turning over explosive items. The bomb squad just wants items to be safely discarded. An ordnance full of explosives was used as a doorstop for 50 years by a family. “Most people just don’t realize that what they have is dangerous,” Fees says. Because explosive chemicals can become unstable it’s important to leave the item where they are and call 911. “It’s alright if it turns out to be nothing,” says Fees.
“Some people think small devices are no big deal. A hand grenade fits in your hand, but it’s intended to kill people,” says Fees. “Don’t take a chance. You don’t get a lot of second chances when these things blow up. We have the training to take care of it.”