Hi-tech truck: Police unveil hazardous device response vehicle

Photo by Tori Boone

Photo by Tori Boone

BUFORD -- Gwinnett police Lt. Bill Walsh chuckled when recalling his department's explosives unit in the late '90s -- basically a bomb suit, some X-ray film and imaging technology operated by a hand-crank.

Thirteen years and $500,000 later, the department hosts the premier response vehicle in Georgia, Walsh said.

Police on Thursday unveiled the Big Kahuna of hazardous device response vehicles -- a fire-engine-big, air-conditioned, robot-carrying diesel called the "Bomb Truck" -- for media in Coolray Field's blistering parking lot.

Leaders say the vehicle signifies the department's growth and the added precautions of a terrorism-conscious world.

Two years in the making, the custom-built truck acts as a one-stop shop for specially trained officers who deal with bomb scares, suspicious packages and explosive drug labs. It's also a hostage taker's worst nightmare.

"This single unit contains every piece of equipment (a bomb squad) would need to respond to virtually anything," said Gwinnett police Chief Charles Walters.

Police were quick to mention the truck came at no expense to taxpayers. Funding came from a $300,000 Georgia Homeland Security grant, plus another $200,000 in confiscated drug money.

Special features include: a 30-foot telescopic camera; a powerful lighting system; flat-screen televisions that provide direct feeds from robot cameras; storage areas and a ramp for said robots; awnings to shade police and enough room to store three-days worth of food in extreme emergencies.

Officials predict the unit will be deployed to assist departments throughout the state, including the FBI and GBI.

"We consider them part of our squad, and vice versa," Walsh said. "Every bomb squad in the country has a response vehicle, but I'd say none to this extent."

Curiously absent from the bomb truck ... bathrooms. And a coffee maker.

"This is a straight-up work truck," Walsh explained.