While the nation watched in horror as the events unfolded at the Boston Marathon this April, Steve Saltsman, Bomb Squad Commander for the Columbus Division of Fire, knew that the work he does was about to get a lot of attention. Capital Crossroads SID has worked with Saltsman for several years, helping to coordinate bomb safety and suspicious package trainings for security officers in buildings throughout downtown. The work he and his team at the Division of Fire, along with the Division of Police, do to keep us safe is of paramount importance.
The goal of terrorists like those who struck the Boston Marathon is to make us feel unsafe and to affect adversely the way we live our lives. Saltsman explains that the work of the Bomb Squad is to prevent such events. While no one is guaranteed 100 percent safety, there are many men and women at work daily to prevent attacks.
“After the Boston Marathon, I was asked many times if people should feel safe at special events downtown, like the Cap City Half Marathon or Red, White and Boom,” explained Saltsman. “I would always answer, ‘yes!’. That is why the Bomb Squad is there, and we cannot let the terrorists win.”
The key to the Bomb Squad’s efforts is being proactive. The Olympic bombing in 1996 marked a change to this mindset; 9/11 cemented it. Being proactive means having teams of agents from the Bomb Squad, law enforcement, hazardous materials units and canine units all working together as a real presence on the street. These groups work both for special events and as a daily presence on the streets.
Leading up to a special event like the just-completed Red, White and Boom, teams of bomb technicians, canine units, law enforcement officers and hazardous materials units sweep all vehicles, vendors and more that are coming into the site. They use chemical detectors, monitors and old fashioned eyes and ears to check for anything suspicious. They also conduct random checks once everyone and everything is in place.
During an event, response teams are out in the crowds, looking for suspicious packages, bags and individuals. Teams respond to reports and concerns; and they do threat assessments, with air monitoring and canine monitoring. Plain clothes officers are also on hand conducting surveillance for suspicious activity.
These activities are obviously done to prevent an incident, but Saltsman notes that the Bomb Squad is also trained to handle an incident if one does occur. In that instance, the bottom line is to save lives by getting medics on scene and handling crowd control.
A Daily Presence
On a day-to-day basis, members of the Bomb Squad are on duty and ready to respond at anytime. They receive calls to assess suspicious packages or explosive items people find (like old dynamite in a barn). The bomb dogs are on patrol daily; their presence helps demonstrate preparedness and prevent incidents.
Another important part of the Bomb Squad’s ongoing efforts is working with the Downtown Security Network on preparedness. Saltsman and his team have developed a video for bomb threat and identification response, which can be used by security operations to aid in training staff. It was produced using funds from the US Department of Homeland Security through the Franklin County Department of Homeland Security Advisory Committee and will be available this month (July 2013). The squad has also worked with the security teams to put plans in place for bomb threats and to help them coordinate between buildings.
“This is a big and important project,” notes Saltsman. “This work helps educate the security folks, teaching them to be proactive rather than reactive.”
Saltsman is grateful for the support he and his team have received from Capital CrossroadsSID, the Downtown Security Network and from the public as a whole.
“The response from the public has been great. People thank us for being there and understand that our work is to help them be safe,” added Saltsman.