Despite Recent Bomb Scares, Crews on Pace for Fewer Calls in 2014

Dec 8, 2014

Crews deploy a remote controlled robot to assess a suspicious item in front of U.S. Bank on Monday. The item was later determined to not pose a threat.
Credit Michele Skalicky / KSMU

In just over two weeks, there have been three highly publicized reports of suspicious items found in the Springfield area. But the frequency of these calls to the city’s bomb squad is not that uncommon.

On Monday afternoon, the Springfield Fire Department Bomb Squad and the FBI determined that an unattended bag found in front of U.S. Bank downtown was not hazardous. Two days earlier, an item located on Park Central Square was determined to be hazardous. That case remains under investigation. Another suspicious bag found Nov. 11 at the Springfield Branson National Airport was later determined safe.

While the use of the bomb squad may seem to be coming more common, Springfield Fire Department Spokesperson Cara Erwin says that’s not the case.

“As a matter of fact, we average about 90 calls a year regionally to the Springfield bomb squad and so far this year, as of last week, excluding the one over the weekend and the one this morning, we had 59.  So I believe we are up to 61 so far this year, which is quite a bit lower than in years past,” Erwin said.

When the fire department receives a call about a suspicious or a possibly hazardous item in the area, they go through a series of procedures.

“A bomb technician will respond to the scene, and again every single case is different, but they will assess the situations and determine what needs to happen next, in terms of the exact steps it varies greatly depending on what it is that they see.”

If an item is deemed to be a possible threat, the bomb squad makes the decision to either allow one of their experts to retrieve the item by hand and place it in a containment vessel, or to use a remote controlled robot.

“Depending on the circumstances and depending on the level of concern, that will determine whether a bomb suit will be needed or whether the robot is needed, so it’s on a case by case basis.”

The item could then be taken to an undisclosed location, where further evaluation is conducted to determine a possible threat. Erwin declined to provide specifics on the procedure.

Citizens can report suspicious items in your area by calling 911 and dispatch will notify the Springfield Fire Department’s Bomb Squad.