The Walnut Creek Police Department is beefing up its line of defense.
The department, which has the county's only bomb squad, recently received a $261,000 grant from the California Office of Homeland Security to buy another bomb robot and a wireless upgrade for its current robot. The second robot will enable the team to be even more effective, said Lt. Mark Covington.
"It would be similar to having two hands to tie your shoes," said Covington. "You can do it with one, but it takes a long time and several tries. If an incident would be better served (with two), both robots would be deployed."
While there may not be very many bomb-related incidents in Walnut Creek, the squad goes out on 40 to 50 calls a year around Contra Costa County. On almost every one, the robot goes too, Covington said.
The new Talon robot will help the department investigate and dispose of explosive devices found anywhere in the county.
"The robot is the team's primary tool for maintaining distance between a hazard and the bomb technician," said Covington. "In many instances, two robots are used at one scene. It provides the bomb technicians many more options to render safe a device."
The new robot can provide video, detect hazardous materials and disable explosives, he said. For the older robot, the grant provides funding for a new wireless operating system; currently, it is controlled using a wire. "The wireless system will eliminate the need for
The bomb squad also has two response vehicles that could be deployed if incidents are occurring simultaneously, he said.
The bomb squad was formed several years ago, but after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, formal squads were formed by the federal government, he said. Walnut Creek was the logical choice for Contra Costa County since it already had a couple of trained technicians, said Covington.
Sgt. J.D. Nelson of the Alameda County Sheriff's Office said that county's bomb team responds to 150 calls a year all over the county except in Berkeley, which has its own bomb unit. For the past two years, the department has had two robots, helpful because one can reach higher places, and the other is more agile. The robots, as well as a bomb- containment vessel the county purchased a couple of years ago, are expensive but necessary, said Nelson.
"People question when you have expensive equipment, the need for it," said Nelson. "Car insurance and house insurance is very expensive, and it's a great waste of money until you have a fire or accident. When something happens, you are happy to have that equipment."
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