A new breed of bomb truck

Response vehicles of the 21st century


     Perhaps the greatest honor bestowed on the agency was E-One's request to borrow and display the truck at the International Association of Bomb Technicians and Investigators' (IABTI) 2007 International Training Conference in Phoenix, Arizona. Thus even before formal delivery, St. Lucie County's new truck was seen by almost 1,000 delegates at the largest gathering of bomb response professionals in the world, who expressed admiration at the unit's design and construction.

Palm Beach County's project

     Thirty miles to the south lies Palm Beach County, encompassing 1.5 million people in a land mass of more than 2,000 square miles, the largest county east of the Mississippi River. Lt. Ralf Kreling commands the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office Bomb, Arson and WMD Response Unit, which employs eight full-time bomb technicians, including a unit supervisor, two environmental investigators and five fire investigators on assignment from the Palm Beach County Fire-Rescue Department. The sheriff's office's Bomb Squad provides primary bomb response for all but three communities in the county, plus is a state-designated regional bomb and WMD response team for South Florida.

     The agency maintains response teams for the bomb squad at headquarters in West Palm Beach, Florida, plus a second location in Boca Raton, the anchor for the county's heavily populated southern portion. As such, they run one truck (a reconfigured fire-rescue ambulance) with a smaller NABCO TCV from the Boca site and a new, custom-made E-One unit towing a larger NABCO TCV with a WMD scrubbing system from headquarters. The old primary truck, now replaced by the E-One, is being reconfigured to the role of post blast and WMD investigation unit, towing a state-supplied equipment trailer.

     Det. Bill Gale, a senior bomb technician with the team, was the primary contact for the project. Palm Beach County's primary interest was technician comfort. This is a busy team, whether responding to actual incidents or providing support to the many VIP visits that the Palm Beaches generate every year, ranging from presidents and presidential candidates to foreign prime ministers, royalty and corporate moguls. Its technicians are busy, and providing comfort for them in this physical field became the primary consideration.

     Palm Beach County started off selecting a Freightliner standard cab, powered by a Mercedes diesel. This was an important consideration for them, as the relationship with Palm Beach County Fire-Rescue (PBCFR) ensures that the agency provide maintenance support to its large trucks, and this is the frame PBCFR has chosen for its ambulances. It then designed a 21-foot cargo box for the workspace.

Comfort, power and storage

     To address technician comfort, most storage is accessible from the inside. However, there is some exterior storage, notably a compartment just behind the driver's door where the technician driving the unit can store his personal equipment. The full-time team has members on investigations, providing training or other field assignments, and each technician's take-home vehicle carries a variety of equipment. Getting a call for the team means one responding technician heads to quarters to drive the truck to the scene, while two other members of the team responds directly to the call. The compartment described above provides adequate space for the tech to store his personal tools and assigned protective gear.

     For electrical power, the sheriff's office also chose a 12-kw Onan diesel generator. It did not opt for a camera mast, although that may be a future addition. Southern Florida's tropical atmosphere also requires the need for the unit to have two roof-mounted air conditioning units to power.

     There are also two separate work stations in the unit. One is a dedicated station, designed for the control module for the team's Andros robot. The second is a command and control station, incorporating a computer, televisions, monitors, a video recorder and desk work space. Adjacent to this is a refrigerator/freezer unit, for cold drinks and cool suit modules.

     At the passenger rear of the truck is the robot garage, accessed through a roll-up door and driven out by a concealed ramp. This area is configured with storage, SCBAs hung on the wall and other overhead and wall-unit storage available.

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