Until recently, most bomb squads operated out of locally fabricated trucks, hand-me-down vehicles ranging from military surplus to ambulances, or the trunk of a standard patrol car. None were practical for the needs of the bomb tech, whose equipment consists of a variety of expensive tools, including X-ray systems, robotics; bulky, expensive bomb suits; a range of hand and power tools; job-specific tools such as disruptors; and explosives. Since the events of 9/11, this has changed for many teams with the realization that their function is of great import, and as bank accounts have been opened to permit units to upgrade their equipment.
The St. Lucie County Sheriff's Office, located along Florida's Treasure Coast, provides primary services to a county of almost 250,000 and shares response responsibilities for two adjacent counties with other sheriff's teams. Until 2007, the unit had operated out of the traditional variety of response vehicles including the technicians' assigned vehicles, a military surplus pick-up truck with a camper shell top, and an ambulance transferred to the unit's use by the county fire department. However, in July 2007, the team took possession of a new, custom-designed truck built by Emergency One of Ocala, Florida.
The new truck was not an off-the-shelf model. Lt. Larry Hostettler and his team designed the unit from the ground up to serve them and their agency as they felt it should, rather than fitting their operations to the truck.
In the endeavor, Hostettler's team received tremendous support from Sheriff Ken Mascara, and his chief deputy, Gary Wilson. Mascara and Wilson's contacts within the St. Lucie County Fire District proved highly beneficial, as they brought the fire service's experience in the design of large public safety trucks to the table. More immediately, Maj. Mike Monahan, director of law enforcement and to whom the bomb squad directly reports, provided the team with continuing support as they worked to design and then oversaw construction of the truck.
Initially, Hostettler looked at several fire equipment manufacturers, based on the fire district's experience. They settled on Emergency One (E-One) after various contacts relayed to them that E-One was most responsive to customer's needs, and is located approximately 150 miles north of Ft. Pierce. Initial discussion centered on the design elements the department wanted to incorporate, including basic details and more specialized details, such as storage and work area design.Personal touch
E-One was knowledgeable of the field, understood the various equipment and even had most specifications on hand. E-One staff also made themselves aware of the needs of the team. They asked what specific type of items the sheriff's office wanted installed rather than assuming one size fits all. For example, they knew the team wanted a toolbox, but did they want a Snap-on, Craftsman or another specific supplier?
"They made the effort to be knowledgeable of what we do," Hostettler says. They also were very cooperative in providing alternative methods to solving specific problems or design elements, permitting the agency to look at a variety of methods to accomplish the task at hand.
They started with the chassis, an International 7400/DT530 crew cab truck. This was chosen after careful research was done to identify a strong and powerful unit which in turn could do double duty as a response truck and tow platform for the department's NABCO — a Pennsylvania-based explosive containment company — Total Containment Vessel (TCV). Additionally, they recognized the need for a strong unit that would endure, as the agency's call volume is such that they would not be trading in trucks every few years.