A new breed of bomb truck

Response vehicles of the 21st century

     The crew cab was selected based on the nature of the unit. As a part-time bomb squad, the team members are limited in the equipment they have immediately available, with most members working out of assigned patrol cars. Thus, it was logical to select a vehicle capable of transporting a team, with its equipment maintained on-board, rather than each member having assigned equipment in his or her take-home vehicle. This way the unit limits the number of emergency vehicles responding to a call, and keeps the personnel together as they respond so they can discuss the information available and begin to formulate a strategy before arrival. This is especially valuable on out-of-county responses, where they may travel 50 or more miles to a call, with minimal to no radio communications.

     St. Lucie County's bomb team prefers to conduct most activity outside their truck, providing privacy on the interior for the robot operator, X-ray processing and possibly a technician conducting computer research. Thus they chose to have several exterior cabinets, accessible via roll-up doors, rather than all-interior storage.

     They also worked with E-One to design exterior work tables that were easily accessed and set up, providing techs with a work area for loading disruptors, preparing explosive charges, dressing out a technician in bomb suit, or other chores that are best conducted outside. This holds down on cramped, soiled or contaminated interior quarters.

     A 35-foot telescoping mast and camera mounted. on the back bumper has proven to be an invaluable accessory for the robot operator, who is now able to view the robot from a different perspective than just the robot's cameras. It also gives them an overall view of the operations area, for planning and security considerations. An adjacent ladder permits access alongside the tower for either maintenance or to access the roof for a photo or view platform.

     Additionally, there are two quartz halogen lights mounted on the rear bumper. Each may be telescoped in place, or may be detached from the truck and used with built-in tripods to provide powerful lighting on-scene. Power for these, and for all electrical needs, is provided by a diesel-fueled 12-kw generator made by Cummins Onan, the Fridley, Minnesota, company that makes generators for a variety of applications.

     Sharing the main truck fuel tanks, the power plant is capable of powering all the systems and equipment the bomb squad may use, while ensuring a healthy supply to avoid brownouts that may damage delicate electronics.

     Toward the rear passenger side, there is a roll-up door leading to a garage for the team's Andros robot. A slide-out gangway allows the robot to roll out to calls. The garage provides built-in storage; however, realizing the small amount of available space in that area has prompted the team plan for additional storage.

Interior features

     Inside, the team chose a combination of roll-up compartments and open compartments secured by cargo-type nets. This was a conscious decision, because items such as bomb suits stored behind the roll-up doors would not damage the doors if shifting during travel. Other items that could possibly damage the doors and inhibit access are better secured by the netting.

     The command area of the truck is also well thought out. Overhead radio consoles provide local radio nets, an AM/FM radio and a video recorder capable of recording from the robot and the mast camera. The desk provides space for the robot control station as well as room to set up a computer, work space for record-keeping and command activities, and drawer space for storage of all the administrative materials required to keep an operation on track. Two monitors are mounted on the wall over the desk that can be used to access the mast camera, robot cameras or digital X-ray images. This permits the robot operator, incident commander, or other decision-makers to observe a variety of operations simultaneously. Finally, a wall-mounted refrigerator and freezer provides cold storage for hydration supplies, which is vital in Florida's hot and humid climate, as well as storage of cool suit packs.

     Hostettler and his team were pleased with the cooperation, design and construction provided by E-One. They recognize the truck is not perfect — as they grow to learn more of its capabilities, they see aspects which were overlooked earlier, and which they are now acting to address. The team wishes to add a large-screen monitor, to be hung on the exterior of the truck, above the exterior work table, to give team members as well as agency and fire-rescue command staff the opportunity to observe scene images without interfering with interior operations.

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