Nevada Department of Public Safety's Division of Emergency Management's Interview with Chief Todd Moss, Tahoe Douglas Fire Protection District/Bomb Squad
Nevada Division of Emergency Management (DEM): What area do you cover? What sorts of calls are in your squad's mission area?
Chief Todd Moss, Tahoe Douglas Fire Protection District/Bomb Squad (TM): Tahoe Douglas Bomb Squad covers Douglas County, the City of South Lake Tahoe, Carson City, the Capitol, and State Legislature. We are contracted with these areas and provide EOD related training for IED/WMD awareness, search procedures, SWAT booby trap scenarios, EMS procedures after hostile events, and explosives awareness through demonstrations.
The majority of our calls for service are explosives sweeps for political or special events. We have seen an increase in these requests due to the awareness of hostile events seen nationally. We have access to Explosive Detection Canines (EDCs), which make the sweeps more efficient and timely. During peak times, these assets can be stretched thin across northern Nevada. We are currently exploring avenues to acquire more EDC assets as the need increases. We also respond to suspicious packages, hoax devices, military munitions, and recovered explosives (old dynamite and commercial fireworks). We also provide support to the local SWAT teams with explosive breaching and robotic capabilities.
DEM: What organizations does your squad partner with to achieve its mission?
TM: We are part of the Northern Nevada Bomb Technicians Task force. This includes Tahoe Douglas Bomb Squad (Tahoe Douglas Fire District and Douglas Country Sheriff's Office), Consolidated Bomb Squad (Washoe County Sheriff's Office, Reno Police Department, and Sparks Police Department), Elko Bomb Squad (Elko Police Department), FBI, and the ATF. Together, we have 16 Bomb Technicians that provide service to 13 of the 17 counties in Nevada - approximately 69,500 square miles with 600,000 residents. All of the Northern Nevada Bomb Squads are part-time, which means our primary mission is as police officers, deputies, investigators, and firefighters. When there is a bomb call, we retrieve the EOD vehicles and respond whether on duty or off.
DEM: What are the training requirements for a member of your team?
TM: Once appointed to the bomb squad, the wait to go to Hazardous Device School (HDS) is between 18-24 months. The reason for the wait period is that there are 466 accredited bomb squads with 3,054 certified bomb technicians nationally, and only one school. During this time, the candidate must be able to obtain a secret clearance from the FBI and take the one week Hazardous Technician course. The candidate is held to the same hourly training requirements as a bomb tech. We are mandated to train a minimum of 16 hours a month in EOD related scenarios, which does not include maintenance of equipment or explosive inventory checks. Also mandated is a 40 hour class in advanced or special EOD procedures every year. HDS is located in Huntsville, AL., at the Redstone Arsenal and is a six week program. Every three years, the bomb tech must go back to HDS for a one week recertification program. As one can see, the additional time requirement for the bomb squad can create a time management juggling act between work and family life.
DEM: How is your squad funded?
TM: The parent agency of each bomb tech is financially responsible for their employee(s). Local public safety organizations have to budget for the overtime or creatively staff during training days and calls for service. We rely heavily on grants, specifically the Homeland Security Grant Program (HSGP). With the development/implementation of Homeland Security Presidential Directives 17 and 19 in 2007 (Countering Improvised Explosive Devices and Combating Terrorist Use of Explosives in the United States), national bomb squads saw an increase in grant funding. With the aid of the HSGP, we were able to increase our capabilities with additional equipment and obtain FEMA Type I status. The majority of these equipment grants came in 2008-2010. From 2010 until now, HASP funding for Northern Nevada bomb squads has been minimal to nonexistant. Another concerning trend seen is the ability of Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI) grant recipients having the ability to obtain further funding through the HASP, while non UASI areas continue to go unfunded. The inability to have routine funding for equipment updates, repairs, and advanced training decreases our ability to provide Nevada with progressively developed practices and techniques.
DEM: What are the biggest challenges facing your squad going forward?
TM: First, the ability to purchase and sustain existing equipment. Second, succession planning. We have four of our six bomb techs eligible to retire from one year to five years out. Losing over forty years of experience, coupled with finding the "right person for the job" is concerning.
DEM: How can others learn more about what you do? Do you provide demonstrations?