Feature Article: Empowering Bomb Squads with DIY Innovations

It takes a special kind of person to be a bomb technician—someone who is brave, disciplined, determined, level headed, and creative. Operators must effectively employ critical thinking and problem-solving skills while working in stressful, potentially life-threatening situations. As a result, bomb technicians’ ability to expect the unexpected and adjust accordingly has created a consistent pipeline of do-it-yourself (DIY) inventions to solve everyday issues they face, and the Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) works to validate and distribute these new capabilities.

Focusing on Smaller Solutions Can Have a Big Impact

Necessity is the mother of invention, and S&T has proudly helped bring many new scientific solutions into this world through its Response and Defeat Operations Support (REDOPS) program. REDOPS supports public safety bomb technicians across the nation by providing a collaborative structure for addressing improvised explosive device (IED) capability gaps. The REDOPS program consists of three focus areas: Bomb Squad Test Bed, Traditional Research and Development (R&D), and Micro R&D. Since it was stood up in 2016, the Micro R&D portfolio has worked with bomb squads across the country to identify useful DIY tools created by their team members to meet specific needs. All products are assessed for safety and effectiveness prior to being shared with the broader community via the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)’s secure online Law Enforcement Enterprise Portal.

“We have direct communication with state and local bomb squads across the country through S&T’s First Responder Resource Group (FRRG),” explained REDOPS Program Manager Byung Hee Kim. “We are also involved with the National Bomb Squad Commander’s Advisory Board, as well as the FBI’s Hazardous Devices School and Counter-IED Program. These partnerships are invaluable when it comes to searching for scientific solutions to operational challenges for our nation’s bomb squads.” REDOPS also participates in the U.S. Army-funded Raven’s Challenge exercise series, U.S. Bomb Technicians Association events, National Tactical Officers Association events, and other state and local exercises to identify user innovations.

The following is a sampling of REDOPS Micro R&D tools making a difference on the frontline.

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