Jan. 5, 2006 — New devices on St. Thomas and St. Croix will help the territory be more prepared to handle bomb threats, said James McCall, assistant commissioner for the V.I. Police Department.
McCall joined local bomb squad members, along with representatives from the V.I. Homeland Security Office and the Law Enforcement Planning Commission, at a demonstration held Thursday at the Bassanio David Command sub-station in Lindbergh Bay. There they received tips on how to operate and maintain the new devices.
At the demonstration was Jay Markey, president of NABCO Inc., the company contracted by the federal government to manufacture the machines. He explained that the devices, called total containment vessels, work in two ways. "First, it allows a bomb, or any such suspect device, to be safely transported without any risk to the officer or public."
Markey said that once a bomb is found, it is put into the chamber of the containment vessel and taken away by bomb squad officials. If the bomb detonates while being transported, the containment vessels keep gas and other hazardous energy released from the bomb inside the chamber.
"The vessel also allows an officer to take a sample of whatever gas is inside the chamber and isolate it for study," Markey added. "That way, if it's something like a biological threat, you'll know what you're dealing with."
After the demonstration, Markey said thousands of these machines have made their way all over the worldespecially after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. "Before 9/11 we used to make a different version of this machine, one that has an open cylinder on the top, so if a bomb detonates, the gas does not stay inside the machine," he explained.
"After 9/11, however, the U.S. Homeland Security Department started providing funding to manufacture the vessels, and we've improved on them, and have tested them in places like Israel, as well as various other countries."
McCall and Wayne Bryan, a representative from the V.I. Homeland Security Office, said the funds to purchase the territory's machinessome $250,000 to $300,000also came from the federal government. "We've been on the waiting list for a year," Bryan said. "But as it turns out, the territory's total containment vessels are among the more advanced in the country, and it really is a great asset to have something like this down here."
"It's important for us to be prepared," McCall added. "If we need it, it's there."
Training on how to use the machine was also provided at Thursday's demonstration. "There are seven members of the squad here on St. Thomas," McCall said. "They've all been trained in the disposal of hazardous materials and they will continue to receive bomb tech training until they can safely operate the device. In fact, they will all be leaving soon for training sessions in Huntsville, Ala., where they'll brush up on their skills and learn some new ones."
Markey said the St. Croix bomb squad received training on how to operate and maintain the containment vessel on Wednesday.
McCall said the purchase of the machines was a joint effort by the VIPD, LEPC, and the V.I. Homeland Security Office.
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