Debra Stoe, National Institute of Justice
Tom Sharkey, National Bomb Squad Advisory Committee
Ed Bailor, US Capitol Police (ret.)
NIJ Conference 2011
Debra Stoe NIJ develops voluntary standards for law enforcement equipment. And recently what we've done is established a standard for bomb suits. This is an example of, obviously, a bomb suit. This is Tom Sharkey. He is with the National Bomb Squad Commander's Advisory Committee, NBSCAB, and what I want to point out is that this suit weighs about 80-plus pounds. It gets very, very hot on the inside, so when these guys wear it, obviously they sweat profusely. They have a fan on the inside operated by this control so that when they sweat and it fogs up they can turn that on because obviously, they have to be able to see. Most of the protection is on the front side; there's little protection on the back side. So when you see an officer approach a bomb, they never run away from the bomb, they always back up, because this is where the protection is. The other thing is that when he kneels down, this helmet is so big, to protect his throat, they can't see directly down; they can only see in front of them. And they can only—their periphery is only about here, so this is why you see this type of movement.
Tom Sharkey You gotta get very used to wearing the suit; it is very cumbersome, very hot. You gotta constantly put the suit on and train with it on to get familiar with it. Bomb technicians without the suit can probably perform the job much better, but we're looking for the blast overpressure, the fragmentation protection, to assist all the bomb techs with their everyday jobs.
Stoe About five or six years ago NIJ was approached by several law enforcement entities to develop a CBRN standard—chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear standard—for law enforcement ensembles. The reason is because most of those types of ensembles, the standards were written for NFPA or DoD. And they just didn't cover the type of events that our law enforcement officers would have to face. So we pulled together an STC, a special technical committee, and it was comprised of engineers, and scientists, people that actually wear the ensembles, practitioners, and they worked together for about two years to develop the standard which has been published now.
Ed Bailor I retired from the U.S. Capitol Police, and I retired as an inspector. And I developed probably the first Hazmat police team in the country, right after the Sarin gas attack in '95. And was initial—we responded to the hard anthrax attack, the first biological, major biological attack on our country. And so my team that I developed, I had a 160-man team at the Capitol that was very well trained. But we were missing something; we were missing the proper equipment. And at the time, like Debra said, at the time the suits were made for the fire community that the law enforcement just used and adapted to the police mission. So the law enforcement community have two types—two choices—the fire standard suit or the military application; none of them fit the law enforcement mission. And so with the help of the Department of Justice took this on and they got help from all of the major law enforcement entities there was that partake—and I don't wanna miss anybody but it was organizations like IACP, the National Sheriffs Association, the Fraternal Order of Police, DEA was a participant on the federal side, National Tactical Officers Association, amongst others. And so it was a mission that we took upon ourselves and when we started out the technical committee, our decision was—our first goal—is we all agreed that this standard that NIJ was—the effort that NIJ was gonna take, that was taking place—what we decided to do, the mission of the law enforcement community and protection of the law enforcement officers was our major goal. We weren't going to sacrifice anything for protection of law enforcement because our mission is different. The military suit was for outside and the battlefield. Policemen were kicking in doors in tactical operations, either rescuing or having to do the law enforcement SWAT mission, and so we needed a special suit. The fire suits wouldn't meet our ergonomics, the requirements of the—the coupling of the ensemble with shooting a long gun with a mask, the gloves, the dexterity of the gloves, putting your finger in a trigger guard. Those are the type of things that we had to consider. The fire protection that we needed from a flash fire that happens in meth labs. You know, there's been no chemical attack in our country, major chemical attack. There's been Hazmat releases, but there's been no chemical attack, and that's what the military suit protected against. But the law enforcement community, we've done, over the last 10 years, over 60,000 meth labs. And that's a very danger—and that's just methamphetamines—not counting all the other drug-type labs. And so that's our mission. The fire suit—the fire standards and the military standards were not tested to those chemicals, so we did that whole cadre of the methamphetamine chemicals to be added into our standard.
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Debra Stoe, Physical Scientist, National Institute of Justice
Tom Sharkey, National Bomb Squad Advisory Committee
Ed Bailor, U.S. Capitol Police (ret.).
Date created: August 22, 2011