Tips from the Utah County Bomb Squad
The Emery County Local Emergency Planning Committee in their January meeting heard from the Utah County bomb squad. Sergeant Peter Quittner, Utah County Emergency Manager, Bomb Squad Commander gave the presentation.
Capt. Kyle Ekker from the Emery County Sheriff's Office is the emergency manager for the county. He introduced Sgt. Quittner, saying they had training at the power plant that day and he invited him to speak to the LEPC.
There were several new faces at the meeting due to city elections and new assignments.
Capt. Ekker said, "Utah County Bomb Squad is our primary resource in Emery County for any threats."
Quittner said the bomb squad works closely with their SWAT team as well. He said the bomb squad is available if they are needed for the rural areas. There are eight bomb squads throughout the state and the Utah County squad will respond to Emery County. He said he is visiting those regions within their response area to get to know people and to educate them on when the bomb squad should be utilized.
Quittner said there are 2,500 bombings per year in the United States. Utah ranks fifth in the nation on bomb calls. Much of this is due to the mining activity in the state and related explosives used in these operations.
The bomb squad tries to work incognito with unmarked cars and vehicles. They like to get into an area and out as quickly as possible causing minimal alarm among residents. The cases they deal with are very sensitive and they like to stay one step ahead of the media.
In the world today, it's a sad truth, but several groups rely on bombs to spread terror and the group's agenda. Bombs can be made easily and with common materials. There are bomb making videos on the internet. All bombs are illegal and can carry a felony if convicted.
Bombs are used to hurt or kill. Even small bombs can be deadly. Flying shrapnel is very dangerous as well as the concussion from a blast. Bombs can be used for revenge, financial gain as in robberies, vandalism and for protests.
An explosion is a rapid escape of gas. Explosions can be classified under mechanical, chemical and nuclear.
Dynamite is an explosive everyone is the most familiar with. It's been used in mining for hundreds of years. In rural areas, dynamite and blasting caps are still being found. They are around old mines, cached in the deserts and mountains, and found in garages and basements.
Quittner said if you find dynamite or think it's dynamite, then call the Emery County Sheriff's Office. If the problem warrants, then the bomb squad will be called in to deal with the explosives. Under no circumstances should you move the dynamite or try to dispose of it yourself. It's very dangerous. Quittner pointed out that over time the nitroglycerin leaks out of the dynamite and can make shelving or the dirt upon which the dynamite sits explosive as well. The box becomes explosive.
You will not be charged criminally or incur financial obligations if the bomb squad takes care of any dynamite you might find.
There are low detonation explosives and high detonation. All will do a lot of damage.
Detonation cord can set up a series of blasts. Quittner said that's sometimes used when gaining entry on a SWAT raid. Quittner said they are also seeing a problem with exploding targets, which are legal to purchase. These targets are banned in Utah County because they can start fires.
Quittner said the bombs terrorists make can be very sophisticated. They will use remote control devices to detonate the bomb. Suicide bombers and car bombs are widely used by terrorists.
Quittner cautioned people to leave suspicious items alone, back packs left unattended, brief cases, suspicious boxes or packages should not be touched and you should keep your distance.
Curious and innocent people have been killed or maimed by getting too close to a bomb in a suspicious package. Quittner said it's definitely not worth it and you should call in law enforcement.
He said sometimes law enforcement even acts unsafely around a bomb, they lack the expertise of a bomb squad. Call the bomb squad and error on the side of caution.
Sometimes people can injure themselves when they are goofing with explosives without a criminal intent. People should leave explosives alone. The bomb squad can reach anywhere in the state in five hours. They also have access to two airplanes and can sometimes get there within two hours. Recently they flew to Monument Valley to take care of a suspicious package on a tour bus. If one bomb squad is busy then another will come.
Quittner said they have recently been to Topaz around Delta where they dealt with old mine explosives. They were in the Uintah Basin dealing with old oil well perforators. They were like mini-hand grenades and there were hundreds of them at a lady's house.
Quittner said people have the mistaken impression that they will somehow get into trouble. That's not the case. "We want this stuff off the streets, we don't want it in a garage or a basement," said Quittner.
Another man they worked with recently had welded himself into a garage with an explosive. Situations like this are handled by the robots. Quittner said they don't want to hurt or possibly cause the death of any of their team members. They use robots as much as possible.
Another thing you shouldn't do is modify fireworks in any way. This makes them more dangerous and explosive.
People just don't realize the damages and accidents that can occur because of misuse of fireworks said Quittner.
Another tool the bomb squad uses is x-ray to try to determine the contents of a package. Every bomb needs a battery, load, timer and switches to work. If all these are working then you have a bomb that can cause damage.
During the Seeley fire the bomb squad was called to Clear Creek where 1,800 pounds of dynamite was found. They burned it up, but it could have been very dangerous if it wasn't found and taken care of properly. People had just forgotten it was there, which is usually the case when these finds are made.
There is no set distance that could be considered safe in dealing with bombs. Fragments can spread over an area a mile or two away. There are too many unknown factors in dealing with bombs. Quittner said, "If you can see the bomb, it can see you."
Another thing for merchants to watch for is unusual amounts of ammonium nitrate purchases from someone who doesn't appear to be a farmer. This should cause a red flag and the authorities should be alerted.
If you have a business you should have a bomb plan in place for what employees should do in the event of a suspicious package, etc.
Capt. Ekker said our community is really good about calling when they find dynamite and he encourages the community to continue to do that. Get away from the dynamite to a safe place and then call. Capt. Ekker said he appreciates the bomb squad and their willingness to come and help Emery County when the situations have arisen in the past where their expertise was needed.
Roger Swenson from the school district and Orangeville City said he would work to develop a plan with the school district and Orangeville City. He will also work on training for the bus drivers.
Brock Johansen from Emery Telcom said they will work on a bomb plan too. They had one of their communications sites vandalized. Communications systems can be key targets and they need to be protected. Capt. Ekker said that's true, but terrorists use the same communications systems that the rest of us do and if they go down their communications would be cut off as well.
Johansen said Emery Telcom works on redundancy for all their systems and back-ups in the event that one system goes down another can take its load.
Capt. Ekker said all those efforts are appreciated and they will work with more businesses getting everyone prepared. The county has an emergency operations plan and they invite any of the cities to adopt that plan.
It was pointed out the power plants and coal mines have bomb threat protocol.
Any city wishing to have CERT training can contact the sheriff's office. This nine unit course will help citizens be ready to help their communities in the event of an emergency.