Fire, Police, and National Guard sharpen their HAZ-MAT skills - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Fire, Police, and National Guard sharpen their HAZ-MAT skills

WATERLOO (KWWL) -- Police and firefighters discovered a bomb at an old elementary school building Wednesday afternoon. There's no need for alarm -- it was only a drill.

The Waterloo Bomb Squad and HAZ-MAT departments train for these situations on a regular basis. But, for the first time, they're going through the exercise together.

In Wednesday's scenario, it was a calm day outside an abandoned building, but on the inside, something catastrophic was cooking.

"A pipe bomb that law enforcement, bomb squad went in to disassemble it, and in the process found out there are hazardous materials involved, they called the HAZ-MAT out," said Mike Schipper, HAZ-MAT training officer with the Waterloo Fire Department.

The situation was only a drill, but it represents real-life emergencies that the Bomb Squad and Haz-Mat teams could encounter. And experts from the Iowa National Guard are offering guidance on dangers, big or small.

"From something as simple as a small plastic bottle bomb to something with potential for mass destruction," said Schipper.

"A normal HAZ-MAT team might not be as concerned with evidence preservation or what an actual weapon of mass destruction lab might look like," said Capt. Clint Powell, a HAZ-MAT expert with the 71st Civil Support Team of the Iowa National Guard.

The Internet has increased the need for a well-trained bomb squad and HAZ-MAT team. Someone looking to cause trouble can find step-by-step directions with the click of a mouse.

"That's really why I have a job, in my opinion," said Powell. "Meth labs, of course, are a big deal in the state right now. That's something you can find readily online. A lot of labs are similar, whether its a meth lab or an explosives lab. Or any other kind of bad thing you want to make."

Another reason for the training was for the police and fire crews to get to know one another. The training session taught both teams, they need to better coordinate their efforts.

"This gives us knowledge of not only what they have, but how they work with it ,how we work with them," said Schipper. "We know on paper that we have them for back-up, for assistance, but now if we work with them we have faces to put with that as well."

"It's instrumental to the success of any incident to know the people you're going to be working with, to feel comfortable with your equipment, and knowing their capabilities," added Sgt. Brian Hoelscher, a member of the Waterloo Police Department Bomb Squad Division.

The Iowa National Guard works with each of the seven regional HAZ-MAT teams annually to keep them up-to-date on dealing with terrorist threats or attacks. Locally, Waterloo Fire and Police are planning to continue this kind of joint training on a regular basis.

Online Reporter: Colleen O'Shaughnessy

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