McLennan County Bomb Squad solely serves 13 counties; Sheriff says 'We respond to anywhere we're needed. We never turn anyone down'

Posted at 5:20 PM, May 16, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-16 19:27:11-04

The McLennan County Sheriff's Office Bomb Squad serves McLennan County.

And Bell County.

And Bosque County. 

And Hill County.

And several more.

Thirteen counties solely rely on McLennan County Bomb Squad to come to the rescue in a bomb situation - a responsibility they are proud to hold. They serve McLennan, Falls, Bell, Limestone, Bosque, Hill, Coryell, Hamilton, Lampasas, Mills, Freestone, Milam and San Saba County. 

However, Sheriff Parnell McNamara said they respond to a total of 26 counties.

"We respond to anywhere we're needed. We never turn anyone down," McNamara said.

Their assistance was needed especially after the rising level of fear after the Austin package bombings. The almost month-long reign of terror left most citizens in the area afraid to open their own mail.

The Hewitt Fedex even called for their assistance when one employee reported a "leaky package" in March - right about the time the bomb squad saw an increase in calls.

After the Austin package bombings, McLennan County Sergeant Michael Graham said they typically respond to two to three calls a month.

"Right now on average we're getting called about five times a month to respond to a suspicious package, an unknown package or an actual suspected device," Graham said. 

Graham is one of three bomb techs on the bomb squad. 

"We rely on each other pretty heavily because there's only three of us," Derek Russell, a detective and bomb tech for the sheriff's office, said.

Since 1973, McLennan County has only had eight bomb technicians, Graham said. 

Last month the bomb squad responded to Temple where a refrigerator was found with a bio-hazard sticker on it. Nothing was found in the refrigerator.

"We're here for you guys. We're taking time out of our day to make sure you guys are safe. If it looks suspicious don't touch it. Give us a call," Russell said.

If you encounter a suspicious package, follow these guidelines to stay safe until officials get there.

All of the techs on the McLennan County bomb squad also have jobs outside of the bomb squad.

"My full time job with the Sheriff's Office for the night shift patrol," Graham said. "It's no extra compensation for being on the bomb squad. You simply volunteer for the position and you do it because it's something you want to do and you know it's important."

The bomb squad trains for sixteen hours a month to be sure they are prepared for anything.

"In the bomb world, it's ever-evolving. There's always something new," Russell said.

"We have to stay on the cutting edge of technology and stay up with what the terrorists are doing to get ahead of them and render devices safe," Graham said.

They use a 2-year-old $235,000 bomb squad truck, which is equipped with everything they need for any call, including their bomb suits, x-ray machine and $400,000 robot.

"We got half of this unit paid for by a grant, the other half the county paid for. It's a very expensive unit," McNamara said.

They use the robot or suit up a bomb tech in 100-lbs of protective gear when they arrive on scene to take an x-ray of what the suspicious package is.

"We look at this and it's something we would deem as hazardous. and we're going to conduct what we call a render safe procedure on this," Graham said while looking at an x-ray of a suspicious package during a training in May.

"We're looking for a power source, a switch, an initator and a load or some sort of explosives," Graham said.

They work slow to ensure they make the right decisions.

"We work very slow and methodical we don't want to get in a rush and do something that's going to have a negative result," Graham said.

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