Terrorist Bombs 101. New Mexico Tech has been an extremely popular destination for police and firefighters around the country, with the wait list for its 3.5 day "Incident Response to Terrorist Bombings" course running from 18-24 months at one point. Home to the Energetic Materials Research Center and 40 square miles of test sites, gun ranges, and explosive storage magazines, NMT has a perfect set of facilities for first responders to come and learn about to blow things up. Before 9/11, the Department of Justice picked up the tab for the course, as well as meals, lodging, and per diem, but in 2003, NMT received $19.8 million through the Department of Homeland Security to underwrite training costs.
"Incident Response" is designed as an intro course to provide participants with basic info concerning explosive and incendiary devices that could be used by terrorists. Aside from classroom instruction, the class includes three field labs where students get to watch things being blown up by a variety of civilian and military explosives and improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Dummies in mock office settings are subjected to letter and briefcase bombs and the grand finale is the detonation of a "large scale" car bomb next to a wooden building. Students get to walk through and observe the effects of the explosives and handle the safer explosives. A few weeks ago, NMT blew up their first bus in order to fill out their portfolio of information being provided to first responders. It is likely that plans for an exercise involving a train or subway car were already in progress prior to the Madrid bombings.
First responders are more pragmatic attending classes at the Center for Domestic Preparedness. Located at the former home of the U.S. Army Chemical School, Fort McClellan, the CDP conducts live chemical agent training, complete with full-up protective gear and nerve agents. Doug Mohney