APD Bomb Squad adapts new response to threats

Austin bomb squad technicians are closely monitoring the news out of Manchester. They actually just trained for a scenario just like the one at the arena.

In early May, Austin bomb squad technicians rehearsed a suicide-bomber situation at a football stadium in Pflugerville.

The mission was to render an explosive safe while still strapped to the suspect's body within minutes. Meanwhile volunteers acted as victims and witnesses in the stadium doing all they could to distract the officers to create as much of a real-life feel as possible.

The training represents a new method for explosive response.

"You have to get up there,” said APD Bomb Squad Sgt. Jeff Crawford. "Technicians have to get in there rapidly and assess the threat at a crowded area where there's just not time to do the slow cautious way like we'd like to."

Crawford said by watching terrorist activity unfold across the world, officers have learned the old technique of evacuating the area around a potential explosive and bringing in  bomb squad vehicles to deal with the problem remotely doesn't work when it comes to a crowded event center.

"If something does happen at a UT game, you're looking at over 100 thousand people there. Instead of evacuating a massive area, we can go through get the immediate area evacuated, push them back, so we can go in there and we can take care of it and everything can resume,” said Officer Jay McCormick.

"I kind of look at it as the way Columbine changed the way we respond to active shooter events,” said Crawford.

Crawford said his officers are constantly re-evaluating their techniques to stay ahead of the criminals. Right now they are hoping to learn from what unfolded in Manchester to keep our facilities here at home safe.

Crawford said they need your help, "We tend to want to dismiss stuff if we're not certain about it because we don't want to look silly if we're wrong. I'd rather have the guys run triple the amount of calls we're running and have it be nothing than not get sent on the one we need to be on."

Crawford said since the bombing seven or eight venues have called requesting their assistance this upcoming week. He said another recent change is taking a proactive approach attending major events, walking around looking for suspicious items instead of waiting for a call.