A podcast about life, the universe and anthropology produced by David Boarder Giles, Timothy Neale, Cameo Dalley, Mythily Meher and Matt Barlow. Each episode features an anthropologist or two in conversation, discussing anthropology and what it has to tell us in the twenty-first century. This podcast is made in partnership with the American Anthropological Association and with support from the Faculty of Arts & Education at Deakin University.
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Episode 08: Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs)
Discussion of IEDs - Improvised Explosive Devices (aka bombs) in Active Shooter Events.
Bill Godfrey: Welcome to this next discussion in ongoing podcast series talking about active shooter incident management. Today, we are going to be talking about the impact of improvised explosive devices in the presence of active shooter events.
I have with us today to join the conversation Billy Perry, retired detective and bomb technician from the Jacksonville area. Welcome, thanks for coming in Billy.
Billy Perry: Thank you for having me.
Bill Godfrey: And Tom Billington, retired fire chief from the south Florida area. Tom, thanks for coming in.
Tom Billington: Thanks for having me.
Bill Godfrey: I am Bill Godfrey, also one of the other instructors. Tom and Billy, both instructors here with C3 on the active shooter incident management course. Billy, let's start off with you on the bomb tech side. What is the real threat of bombs to us from a practical point of view in these active shooter events? Based on what we've seen and what's going on, what is the threat?
Billy Perry: I'm glad you're asking these questions, Bill. Bombs and IEDs are becoming much more prevalent in our world. When I say "our world", I'm talking about our world in the law enforcement fire community and especially in the active shooter realm. They are becoming more frequent. They're becoming more sophisticated. They're becoming more reliable and, as a result, more dangerous. One of things that we like to say is "bombs have the right of way". You can't negotiate with them. They're an inanimate object and they're something to be concerned with. In our curriculum, we talk about 50 pounds and less being a device that we're concerned with. Where I came from and our jurisdiction, we were responsible for everything under 100 pounds under water. That's a lot. 50 pounds of explosives is a significant amount and will do a lot of damage.
Ignorance reigns supreme and to be frank, when I was involved in the explosive breaching side as a S.W.A.T. guy, I was very cavalier about explosives and I was terrified of a dirty bomb. Then, I found out that a, once I learned about explosives, I realized that I wasn't afraid of a dirty bomb. I could fix that with a whisk broom and dust buster, but conventional explosives now, I'm mortified of. They terrify me. We have to be concerned about that. We have to be concerned about secondaries because bombers are like knife fighters. If you have one knife in law enforcement, you always look for another one and a third. The same thing with bomb. If they do one, they like to have two. Redundancy. Like I said before, they come from the department of redundancy department. You want to be cognizant of that. Just be careful with them.
Bill Godfrey: Interesting segue in that, they come from the redundancy department is kind of funny, but I guess in many ways true here. From the active shooter events that we've seen and from the security information you're privy to, what are the kinds of things that guys that are operating on the inside should be looking for? If they have a bomb or they seize, if there is a bomb present, somebody brought an IED to the thing, what are the sizes? What's the range of the threat that they're looking for? What's the size of the package the device triggers? Any common stuff there? Anything to keep eyes out for?
Billy Perry: Absolutely. They're the normal ones and we've seen all of them in the instance such as the Boston bombing, such as the San Bernardino incident. They've had the triggers from electric. They've had, when I say "electric", San Bernardino was a Christmas bulb which ran off of a battery. They had a remote-controlled, San Bernardino, remote-controlled car. The Boston bombers made grenades out of elbows, galvanized elbows. We have to be very cognizant of all those.
They're usually hand-portable, but they are still very formidable devices.
Bill Godfrey: Got you.
As we're a contact team or a rescue task force, both of them, they're moving downrange, they see something that just doesn't look right, what are the steps? What's the initial action?
Billy Perry: Great question again.
I'll tell you, in our curriculum we say IED and tell where it goes on the checklist. We talk about that, where is it and talk about what it is. Where I come from, we were not super smart and what we had to do is, because I'm one of us and I can say that and we keep things really, really simple. We use the word "bomb" because nothing else can be mistaken for "bomb". The only time that we use the word "go" is in response, or in regards, I should say to "bomb". We say "bomb cover" or "bomb go". If we are moving down a passageway, a hallway or down in a area and we run into a device and by running into, I mean we see it, the point man sees it. No matter what size it is, we're practicing a 540 scan, 360 around, 180 degrees up and down and if you see it, immediately stop. Just like the military has a 5-25-5 meter immediate area scan, 25 meter area scan, we do the 5 foot scan and the 25 foot area scan to look for other things, but we call out "bomb cover".
If the bomb is a distance from us, we say "bomb cover" and we move to cover creating angles and air gaps. [inaudible 00:05:33] one person will hold on it, not necessarily looking at it because what are we covering? The bomb. If you can see the bomb, the bomb can see you. You've got to remember a bomb is a gun that fires in a 540 degree arc. It doesn't miss. We want to make sure that we keep that away, but we're still paying attention for actionable intelligence and stimulus.
If it's coming at us, I should say, like if the bomber comes out or the shooter comes out and throws something towards us, that would be "bomb go" and we're going to move past it. Is this moving toward us? We're going to move past it towards them and continue the assault.
Bill Godfrey: Tom, I want to bring you into the conversation at this point. We've got a group of injured. There's a contact team that's either in the area or passed through the area because we've seen this happen in some incidents across the country. We're working to provide some medical, emergent medical care to the patients and then get them evacked out and then we find a device.
What's the impact, because on the rescue task force for medics being downrange, we talk about them being in a warm zone, but obviously if we're in the vicinity of what we believe is a bomb, that makes it a direct threat environment. Suddenly, it becomes a hot zone. What's the course of action? Tom, from your perspective, you've got medics downrange. They're already in there. You've got patients that need to get evacked out. Lo and behold, turn around, there's a backpack, there's a thing, there's a whatever. What actions are they going to take? What do you think is going to happen?
Tom Billington: Actually, this is a good discussion point. Usually before we activate the RTF, law enforcement will tell the EMS or fire crew, "Here's what's going to happen if somebody starts shooting". It might be a good idea to have the conversation, "Here's what we're going to do if we see something suspicious. That way, it doesn't take the fire or EMS personnel off guard. If somebody says "bomb", I know that right away can make a firefighter go, "Oh, what do we do now?" Obviously, having the conversation beforehand is very important.
Again, making sure we have relationships with our law enforcement, very important. Again, if I was on the scene with Billy and we're looking at something that was maybe a device and he gave me direction, I would listen to it because I trust him wholeheartedly. I know his abilities. We need to make sure that the fire community is meeting with these experts not during, but way before an incident occurs. I think those two things alone will really help the fire or EMS folks be able to handle a situation when it comes up.
Bill Godfrey: Billy, that scenario and what Tom is describing, I think it makes a lot of sense. They're in a room. They're in a casualty collection point. Lo and behold, you're working on five, six, seven patients and here's a device. Here's an honest goodness believed to be legit device. What are the things that they can do. What are the things that they can do to try to make themselves a little safer, make the patients a little safer short of the obvious of grab them and get them out of there? Are there anything, other things that they can do?
Billy Perry: If it's a small room, we're going to get them out of there. We're going to have to move them.
Space is your friend. If an area will provide you cover from rifle fire, it's probably going to be okay for distance from a bomb. It's going to be better than obviously nothing. Space and good cover and angles. Multiple angles are even better, not in a confined area, but we're going to, if it is a very small device and again, all devices aren't the same. It's hard to pack ourselves up. Again, I don't want to overemphasize them, but I don't want to downplay them too much either. If you look at a hand grenade that's a small amount of composition B, but man, the amount of damage that it does compared to a block of C4, that's amazingly devastating, but a pipe bomb with black powder, let's say, is going to be a significant event, but it's not going to be anywhere near the same because you've got a low explosive versus a high explosive.
If they are in a closed area, obviously bunkering it, the device without touching it and that. I think, for your RTF, I think if your initial responders and everybody are pretty switched on, they're going to be looking for that because I know we train for that. We train to look for that. They're going to see something that's out of the ordinary. Again, there's a huge difference between something with a radio antenna coming out of it like the car in San Bernardino and a pipe bomb with a fuse that's burned, you can see the burn marks that it didn't go off. There's a huge difference between the two because the one is probably not going to happen obviously, or it would've, and then there's the other.
Then, there's the other types of devices that you're worried about, but go ahead.
Bill Godfrey: I want to try to get you to clarify something because I know what you mean, but obviously on a podcast when we're just talking about things, it's sometimes a little hard to explain because you've mentioned several times angles. Can you be a little more clear on what you mean by angles for the people that are listening?
Billy Perry: Absolutely.
When you encounter a device, you want to create angles. You want to move in a 90-degree angle from it, like if you can go down another hallway, if you can go around the corner of a building. Again, multiple angles are even better. You don't want to be in a room or a house with it if you can or a building if you can. You want to get out. If you have to stay in it, you want to create as much air and angles from it adjoining rooms and areas as you can.
Again, if it's bomb cover, we're going to have one person that's going to stop and provide cover being responsible for cover downrange without staring at the device. Somebody else is going to be moving to look for an alternate route, just try to find another way around it and move on, but if we get stimulus, if we get actionable intelligence, we're going to move past that device frankly with the exception of possibly a PIR, a passive infrared or a motion detector no different than you have on a flood light or a motion detector on a burglar alarm. Those are different because those are pretty effective. We're going to be very cognizant of those. That's going to require another entry.
Bill Godfrey: Best case scenario: You spot it, call it out to the team, fall back, find another way around it and then continue to execute your mission. We haven't talked about [inaudible 00:12:23] yet. Guess let's put a tag in that one and come back to it.
Billy Perry: Okay. Okay.
Bill Godfrey: The idea of angles, we want to get around corners. Part of that is the blast wave. Is it also the fragmentation that you're trying to get away from?
Billy Perry: You're trying to get away from ... Bombs injure us and kill us in three ways: Heat, fragmentation and overpressure, or the shockwave, the overpressure, the changes in pressure. They're all dangerous. They're all bad. You're a firefighter, you know. [inaudible 00:12:49] burned, we don't want pressure and we definitely don't want frag, which is a bunch of baby bullets or big bullets even. That's why distance and cover are important.
Bill Godfrey: Okay. With that said, let's talk a little bit about marking it. If you come upon something, and when we say "come upon it", let's just be clear, we're not talking about it is at your feet and you've closed on it to six inches. That's not what we're talking about. You've seen it 15, 20, 30 feet down the hallway as you're coming up on something.
Billy Perry: Hopefully.
Bill Godfrey: Hopefully. We hope.
Billy Perry: Right. Hopefully.
Bill Godfrey: What's the kinds of things that are effective for marking it to alert other crews not to go down there or alert it that that's, there's something unusual there?
Billy Perry: We really emphasize glow sticks. We really do. Green and red glow sticks. We emphasize those and we emphasize everybody having a bag for active incidents and having those in there. We recommend, if you mark it with red, that means it's something along the lines of a PIR or something that's command-detonated with an antenna. Don't go past that. Don't go past that. We recommend something that is green and red combined, link them together for something that has a fuse that's burned. This is probably not going to go off, but don't tarry here. Move by. If you've got to move by, we'd look at it and I've always said, "Just move. Don't sit and look at it. Don't waste time. Look at where you want to go and go. Don't look at the bomb. Don't mess with the bomb. Don't mess with it. Just let it go. Hopefully you ignore it, it ignores you and you move on."
Then, green for something that a bomb tech would put down saying, "This one has been mitigated, trip wires." Be cognizant of that. That's another thing to look for. Look for the initiating mechanism. If you do see a device, look and see if you see any wires or fishing line or anything like that.
Bill Godfrey: Okay.
I'm going to tangent a little bit here and ask a harder question. This scenario I'm about to give you has come up a number of times in training that we've done and it's been interesting seeing responder's reactions to it. In some cases, there's been the threat of a vehicle-borne IED, which you make an interesting point about the distinction between a bomb in a vehicle and a vehicle that is a bomb. I'll let you explain on that a little bit as well, but the threat of what is believed to be a vehicle-borne IED that has an exposure to people that you need to rescue and as quick as you're going to move, it's going to take time. You've got 15, 20, 30 people that need to be rescued. No matter how you chalk it up, that's going to take a lot of time and a lot of people.
Tom, recall back the scenarios we've seen where people have used firetrucks as shielding between where the casualties are and between where this potential vehicle-borne IED. On the one hand, firetruck, big red truck, made mostly of aluminum, which is not necessarily that good, but also there got a lot of water sitting in the middle of them.
Billy Perry: That's what I was about to say.
Bill Godfrey: Talk a little bit about what are the strategies.
Tom, I'm trying to remember how many times we've seen that now. Is that a good strategy? Are there better ideas? How do you handle ... Tom and I are on the medical side. What are we supposed to see with these patients that are in a hot zone that are exposed to this thing? We can't diffuse it. We can't make the bomb go away. We can't get rid of it. What do we do?
Billy Perry: You're on the right track. Absolutely firetrucks are amazing cover, so are garbage trucks. They really are. They're big, heavy, they deflect pressure waves. They're really, really good, but those, but while you're putting those in place, be moving as many as you can. We have to move them. [inaudible 00:17:00] whatever, we've got to move them, got to get them out of there because we're not going to move the car obviously, because another thing that we don't do when we have a device, even in a movement area, like with an active shooter in a building or in an office complex or whatever, we're not going to change the environment. We're going to leave the environment where it is and we're not going to change the lights. We're not going to move it obviously, which that brings me to another good point. Let's put a pin in that one, or about touching bombs. We're not going to change the car. We're not going to move the car out of the way. We're not going to move that.
The point you were talking about is, there's a big difference between the pipe bomb in the backseat of a car, that's not a car. That's not a VBID, that's not a car bomb. That is a bomb in a car. Putting something like 50 pounds of explosives in the backseat, something that uses the car as the case or as the actual mechanism for transport, that would be a car bomb. There's a huge difference in them. If you look at Secora, New Mexico, you'll see that requires a lot of space, but you also want the cover as close to the patients as possible because the pressure waves [crosstalk 00:18:10]
Bill Godfrey: That was one of the questions I was going to ask is: Do we want the cover closer to the vehicle or closer to the patients?
Billy Perry: Closer to the patients because the pressure wave will go over them.
Tom Billington: Joining on what Billy just said about the shockwave and making sure we have the barrier as close to the patients as possible, something for the RTFs to think about and again, as Billy said, we're not going to be worrying about [inaudible 00:18:32] and things like that. We need to do rapid extrication. Time is going to be our friend. We've got to hurry up, get the people out of there.
For treatment, we also need to be sure that our medical people understand the injuries that can occur from a bomb, such as the shockwave. In Hollywood, when a bomb blows up, people hit the ground, they stand up and go back to work. That's not the case here. Our patients who may not look like patients right away after the shockwave hits them, in a short amount of time will start having serious internal injuries and other things that will start occurring. We have to make sure we're trained up on how to handle these incidents, even if they don't look as severe right away, thinking about the future.
Bill Godfrey: You think it's something, the pulmonary injury from the overpressure wave, those kinds of issues?
Tom Billington: Right.
Billy Perry: Absolutely.
Tom Billington: Right.
Billy Perry: The traumatic brain injuries that you don't see that manifest themselves over time.
Bill Godfrey: Yeah.
I was taught the rule of thumb was, if somebody is close enough to a blast that they got knocked down, got their breath knocked out of them or had any indication of fluid out of the eyes, nose or ears, that was an automatic trip to the ER to get screened even if they said they were okay.
Billy, is that still consistent with training that you're getting now?
Billy Perry: Absolutely. Just a couple of pounds of overpressure are really detrimental health-wise.
Distance, let's talk about distance. One of things about explosives is a foot, one foot between, let's say just as arbitrary numbers, ten feet could be injury and eleven feet be absolutely unscathed, depending on the explosive that goes off. You could be ten feet away and actually have a minor injury, eleven feet, you're completely unscathed. It's just that. Distance is your friend, but you're not going to outrun it. That's another one of the things.
Bill Godfrey: You're not going to dive in the bathtub and get away from it.
Billy Perry: You're not going to dive in the bathtub from the toilet and get away with it. Not going to happen because you're not going to move it 20,000 feet per second, which it is for a high explosive, so you've got to be cognizant of that.
What I was going to talk to you about too about the bomb, about not changing the environment, we're not going to touch them. Never, ever, ever touch a bomb. Never, ever, ever, ever, never touch a bomb. As a result of that, keeping in continuity with tactics, we don't ever, ever, ever touch a bomber because a bomber is bomb. With that said, we have to emphasize, "You don't handcuff them. You don't touch them." We're going to end up undressing them probably with a robot and a razor knife.
Bill Godfrey: The implications then on the medical side is, we don't touch them either?
Billy Perry: No. Not at all. Nobody touches them. Like I said, even to include handcuffing. If they don't do exactly what we say, and this is something that individual officers and this is a scary and a new event that we have to discuss, but you need to, agencies need to clear it with their local prosecutors. We have to have an agreement. We've done that in the fourth judicial circuit where we understand that they're not going to be handcuffed and if you don't, if you're an actual bomber, if you been an active bomber, if you don't obey voice commands, you're going to get shot.
Bill Godfrey: That's serious business.
Billy Perry: Very serious business.
Bill Godfrey: Serious business.
Tom, anything else on the medical side that you wanted to ask Billy or bring up on this?
Tom Billington: No, just that, again, as we have said through most of other podcasts, we have to talk about these things face to face with the people we are responding with before it ever occurs. That's the most important part, knowing what to do. We don't want to react. We want to act. We want to know how we're supposed to act beforehand. That's the most important lesson I can bring from this.
Bill Godfrey: Yeah. I think the other piece of this, for me on the medical side, we're teaching and preaching it's warm zone. It's warm zone EMS care. We don't deliberately go into a hot zone or purposely go into a hot zone. The problem here with bombs, IEDs is that suddenly gets a little bit of a gray area, because now, by definition, it's not a warm zone. It is a hot zone, a direct threat environment, but if it's medical-related problem, that is supposed to be our domain on the medical side and probably need to have some conversation about that ahead of time. I don't think that's a discussion you want to get into at a scene about who is going to go in and get the patients. Is it going to be law enforcement?
Billy Perry: It's definitely too late at that point, right.
Bill Godfrey: Is it going to be fire, EMS? Who is going to go do it and whose responsibility is it going to be?
The other sobering consideration is, if you have a significant number of patients that need to be moved and rescued, that is not going to get done by three or four medics and police officers. That's going to take a lot of people. As fast as we want to move, you could commit 10 people to move 30 and it's going to take a long time.
. Billy Perry: Sure.
Bill Godfrey: Or, you could commit 100 people to move 30 and it'll go pretty quickly, but you've got a large number exposed.
Billy Perry: Right. You've exposed 100 people.
Bill Godfrey: Yeah, so which is better? I don't know that there is really a right or wrong answer to that. It's going to have to be a judgment call based on the environment.
Before we leave this topic, Billy, I've got to bring up the age-old one. Tom, this is going to make you laugh because I know you and I have been hearing this since we were both young guys riding on the back step. Radios around a bomb.
Billy Perry: The mythical radio.
Bill Godfrey: The mythical ... Debunk this one for us a little bit.
Billy Perry: Absolutely. Would be happy to.
It is something that is still prevalent in every operational order that I know of across the country and it's still one of those things.
Bill Godfrey: Including our checklist.
Billy Perry: Including our checklist.
Honestly, it's one of those things that we just have to really understand modern information. You and I talked about it a year ago or a little over a year ago and you did research and found, as did I, that the only one we could find, we think it was like 40 years ago in a construction side. Modern data radios transmit data packets. They don't have the high wattage outputs for a sustained period of time that the old ones did. That's the only one that we can find of it.
Again, we were schooled on it by the military. I was actually in a bomb suit doing an exercise and they said, "What are you talking to the command post back with?" I said, "The radio."
It hit me. It's the exact same radio in the pocket of my sleeve of my bomb suit, my 92-pound bomb suit that we use in patrol. It's no difference. I'm leading over said device, pushing the button in the center of my chest telling everybody what I'm looking at. It's one of those ephiphanal moments when you realize, this is why I said earlier, "I'm not smart." I have empirical data to back that up, but it is. We still want you limit it in the event, whatever and don't put your antenna on a device again, in keeping with the "don't touch it mentality" and [inaudible 00:25:55] a bunch of times, say, "Yep, it's not going off." Just maintain respect of it, but it's not the "Oh my gosh, it's the doomsday event that we've always thought it was."
Bill Godfrey: So, some common sense.
Billy Perry: Some common sense. Can't hurt, might help, but honestly, if you've got something you need to say, say it.
Bill Godfrey: We want to get air gaps. We want to get around a corner anyways, so hold your transmission til you get to your cover and then put it out.
Billy Perry: Right. Put it out. The 300 foot, whatever, be cognizant of your standoff distances and look at how far those really are. That's big. Again, never, ever touch a bomb. Those are our takeaways. Don't touch the bomb. I'm not saying that we're going to execute a bomber, but I am saying we are not going to negotiate with one.
Bill Godfrey: Okay. Well put. Never touch a bomb.
Billy Perry: Never touch a bomb.
Bill Godfrey: Never touch a bomb and don't touch it with your radio or [crosstalk 00:26:49]
Billy Perry: Don't look at it.
Bill Godfrey: [crosstalk 00:26:51]
Billy Perry: Don't fold it, spindle it, mutilate it. Don't mess with it. Don't move it. Don't change the environment, like I said. Just use you common sense. It's a weapon. It is a firearm that fires at 540 degrees and does not miss. A bomber is a bomb and we're not going to touch a bomb. We're not going to touch a bomber.
Bill Godfrey: Thank you very much. I think that's a good place to leave it for today and wrap this one up.
Billy Perry: Thank you.
Bill Godfrey: Tom, thanks for coming in.
Tom Billington: Thank you.
Bill Godfrey: Billy, thank you very much.
Billy Perry: Thank you so much.
Bill Godfrey: Appreciate you guys being here.
Original Source: https://www.c3pathways.com/podcast/improvised-explosive-devices