Rose Twp. — Instead of opening doors, potentially getting shot at, and searching for bombs, two robots used by the Michigan State Police Bomb Squad were featured at the Sunday, Oct. 6 North Oakland County Fire Authority (NOCFA) open house.
This was the first time for the bomb squad at a NOCFA open house. However, Spl./Sgt. Scott Reynolds, bomb technician with the MSP, said an important part of his job is community outreach.
Their main job is ensuring the safety of Michigan residents and police.
“Our main job is bomb squad but we also support our tactical team. If there’s a bad guy in the house with a gun, instead of sending an officer in there, we can send our robots because basically our robots can do everything that a human can do,” he said.
This includes climbing stairs, opening doors, and more.
F/Lt. Michael Shaw of the MSP said the Michigan bomb squad was established in 1970 in response to a rash of political bombings. It’s one of the top 10 largest bomb squads in the nation.
The bomb squad has 14 robots in all, each different sizes with different uses. Seven regional teams with 15 officers each are used to respond to suspected explosive devices and weapons of mass destruction (WMD) incidents, according to michigan.gov.
Squad members are certified bomb technicians and HAZMAT (hazardous materials) technician level trained, and they are a part of the Michigan Regional Response Team Network (RRTN), which was established to provide a quick response to anywhere in the state in the event of WMD or terrorism incidents.
Each squad uses bomb suits, X-ray equipment, explosive containment transport vessel and the robots.
The bomb squad averages approximately 500 calls a year. Some of these calls come from bomb threats at schools. Shaw said the K-9 units usually handle the schools, and the bomb squad only goes if a threat is credible.
Reynolds said these situations can range from investigating a suspicious package found at a crowded football stadium, collecting evidence at bombing scenes, training on bomb threat awareness, to an active shooter who’s barricaded in a house.
In June 2018, the MSP used a robot to go into a home in Fenton. After a domestic violence situation the day prior, a man had barricaded himself inside the home. Police heard a gunshot and thought the man was an active shooter. With help from the robot, which was used to explore the house with an attached camera, police discovered the man had shot himself.
Multiple robots have been shot. At the Oct. 6 NOCFA event, he pointed out to attendees a few of the indents on the robots were caused by bullets.
“Had it been an officer, there’s a good chance it would have been an officer that got shot,” Reynolds said.
The bomb suits were on display at the NOCFA open house. These are full-body pads, which make up a suit, made to protect police. The entire suit, made of Kevlar and ceramic, weighs 80 pounds.
“If you have to get in the suit, physically you have to be in shape for that as well,” he said.
If there’s too much smoke in the air, they’ll wear the specified helmets and breathing apparatuses, which add another 25 pounds.
Reynolds said these events are good for the community.
“It’s nice to get out and talk to them (kids) and then they’re not afraid of you. If they’re involved in an incident, and they’re talking to a police officer, you goof around with them a little bit, and if they ever get in a bad situation, then they’ll trust you,” he said.