Bomb squad commander talks about dangerous job

All 11 members of the bomb squad are on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week

CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) – Here in western Massachusetts there are two state troopers assigned to the bomb squad.

They respond to calls every day, and sometimes several times a day.

“We know what we’re getting ourselves into, we’re there because someone thinks there’s a bomb,” said Sgt. Bill Qualls.

Sgt. Bill Qualls commands the ten techs in the state police bomb squad. They’re a vital part of the department. In 2016, the 11-member division responded to more than fourteen hundred calls.

“The local fire chief the local police chief they’re the ones are the ones who are ultimately the on scene commander and they request whatever assets or resources they need. Sometimes that’s us,” said Sgt. Qualls.

That was the situation two weeks ago when West Springfield police had a pipe bomb situation on their hands. Several state police bomb technicians were called in to neutralize 4 pipe bombs on Riverdale Street.

Once on site, the bomb techs assess the threat, and make sure they stay as safe as possible. Often times when you see the bomb squad called in you see them put on this suit. It weighs 90 pounds and it’s a two person job to put it on.

Sgt. Qualls told 22News, “It protects us to a certain extent but as we get closer and closer to that item there’s a greater chance of personal injury to us.”

Sgt. Qualls said another crucial tool is their bomb sniffing dogs who help with the threat assessment.

“The majority of the unattended packages or the suspects items and the same for bomb threats that we get called for, turn out to be non-hazardous at the end of the mission. That’s the beauty of what we do, we’re able to go in and determine if it’s an actual threat,” said Sgt. Qualls.

All 11 members of the bomb squad are on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

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