Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers were offered a live demonstration of how a Bomb Squad would respond to an improvised explosive device (IED) found in checked baggage. Friedman Memorial Airport (SUN) and Twin Falls Regional Airport (TWF) partnered with local law enforcement in the engaging event.
TSA Manager Sheryl Mukhar approached the Twin Falls Police Department (TFPD) Bomb Squad with the idea of having a live training event. The Bomb Squad was very receptive to providing a unique learning experience, benefiting both themselves and TSA.
The live demonstration required the involvement of multiple stakeholders, including SUN and TWF airport management, the TFPD Bomb Squad, local airlines and TSA staff.
“The experience of having the TFPD Bomb Squad come out to our airport and run a scenario was incredibly helpful as it allowed us to see how our agencies can best work together,” said SUN officer Shawna Adams when asked about the experience. “It was a great way to begin building a relationship with the officers that will allow us to communicate more effectively, [and] be able to give them information that they may need more efficiently, prior to needing it."
The scenario consisted of an IED in checked baggage. In real-time, TSA officers made notification to the Boise (BOI) Coordination Center, relaying information of a “live” IED found in a checked bag.
When asked about the training event, BOI explosive specialist Mike Bernard explained, “The BOI explosive specialist built training devices based on historical events. Those bags and training aids were used for both Transportation Security Officer equipment familiarization sessions and the Bomb Squad response exercises. Different devices were used at each location.”
The TFPD Bomb Squad’s robot removed a portion of the simulated explosive. Remote control of the robot could be viewed by participating officers. A TFPD Bomb Squad officer suited up for additional removal of the explosive, carefully placing the simulated IED into the contained disposal unit.
The Bomb Squad also benefited from the training by “understanding the uniqueness of the screening environment…and how threat assessments and action plans can be different in a transportation venue, particularly in a checked baggage situation,” explained Bernard.
Everyone involved learned from the experience. “The bomb squad learned from us and we learned from them. We went through the entire drill of a simulated bomb in the checked baggage area. We got to see how the bomb squad responded to the bomb and what their process was. They got to see our checked baggage areas and how we [TSA] would respond to this scenario. The bomb squad utilize their technology to make their determination about how to approach and to mitigate the threat,” commented TWF Lead Transportation Security officer Gina Rajacich.
Rajacich also highlighted the key importance of communication, “We learned how important it is to have proper communication between us, the coordination center, the bomb squad and the local police department to ensure a positive outcome. The key seemed to be clear, concise communication and a scribe to keep it all recorded.”
The collaborative demonstration translated the countless hours of classroom and Online Learning Center training to a live, real-time, simulated hands on practice. A training and engagement exercise well executed by everyone involved, an explosive performance ending with a BIG BANG!