By Ed Brock
The Clayton County Police Department's Bomb Squad has a new ride, and it's not just for show.
With an outside video monitor and work station, increased storage and even onboard kitchen facilities, the Bomb Response Unit from Lynch Display Vans in Burlington, Wis., is designed to improve the EOD squad's efficiency, said the squad's commander Capt. Tom Israel.
And the people of Clayton County aren't paying any of the $195,000 price tag for the fully equipped vehicle that arrived last week, Israel said. The Georgia Emergency Management Agency's Homeland Defense Grant provided the funding.
"One of the reasons we received funding for the bomb vehicle is because we will not only respond to Clayton County but also nine other counties for explosive ordnance disposal calls," Israel said.
That response area can extend as far south as Macon, Israel said, and the unit can also respond statewide as needed.
One of the key benefits of the new vehicle is the outside monitor and work desk. It allows members of the command staff at an incident location to watch video from the squad's Andros S6A bomb disposal robot.
"The robot operator doesn't need a lot of people standing around him," Israel said. "Now the operator can be inside the vehicle and not be interfered with as he does his duty."
The vehicle has an awning that can be deployed to block the sun and rain from the outside workspace. Strapped to the side of the vehicle are removable "scene lights" for nighttime missions.
"They are extremely bright," Israel said. "We want to be able to see what we're dealing with."
Inside the van is a bay for the robot and another monitor so Israel can sit next to the robot operator, who uses a portable command console, and watch the video and also not interfere with the operations.
There are also several spacious cabinets for storing the heavy padded safety suits used by members of the squad when they have to approach an explosive device in person.
"It's state of the art," said Bomb Squad member Sgt. Olen Smith. "There's plenty of room for our equipment, and we're in dire need of that."
There's also a freezer and refrigerator for storing the frozen water bottles used in the "cool suit" versions of the safety gear. The refrigerator, along with a sink and microwave oven, also allow for some comforts on long missions.
"We can be out there eight, nine, 10 hours," Israel said.
Qualifying for the Homeland Security grant is a tribute to the department, Clayton County Police Chief Darrell Partain said.
"To receive such a fine piece of equipment demonstrates the professionalism of our Bomb Squad unit."
Partian said the vehicle is the last piece of large equipment to be bought with grant money from the 2003-2004 budget and the department has not yet decided what they will get with next year's money.
Israel said they are also expecting delivery in the next week or two of a new containment vessel that is used for controlled detonations of small explosive devices.
Last Thursday members of the squad were still loading equipment onto the van, but Israel said if they are called to duty they are ready to use the new van.