By Angela Wallace
A member of a Utah bomb squad could be on a mission if he?s riding a Segway, a two-wheeled, self-balancing personal transport vehicle that emerged a few years ago.
Even though Utah County Sheriff Jim Tracy could be a possible rider as a member of the state?s bomb squad, he points out that the eight Segways that have been approved by the federal government for Utah?s use are not supposed to make the equipped riders look trendy but serve a purpose.
?It?s not a toy; it?s not supposed to make us look cool,? Tracy said. ?It?s a transport system that will make sure they will not be dehydrated or fatigued.?
The eight vehicles, which will cost $96,000 total, will help the eight bomb squads around the state enter areas containing explosives, or ?hot zones,? while carrying around 100 pounds of equipment.
Because wearing a heavy bomb suit and carrying equipment and explosive tools can be a daunting task, especially during the summer months, these vehicles will ensure the safety and health of those called to address bomb situations.
?A suit like that doesn?t breathe, and (Segways will) come in handy especially in July or August or a 90-plus day,? Tracy said. ?Members of the bomb squad will have to stand off distances that are long, so this way, you can ride up as close as you can. These will save energy when walking long distances and they won?t overheat you.?
Another technological device that will aid the bomb squad is a robot that will be used to approach bomb packages and take pictures of them without coming in contact with the package, said Kris Hamlet, financial manager for the state?s Department of Emergency Services and Homeland Security.
Technology has been at the forefront of Utah?s $26.7 million budget for homeland security. From funding fire rescue vehicles that cost up to $452,000, to weapon of mass destruction exercises and training programs that cost up to $1.6 million, the state Department of Public Safety is trying to utilize its resources with the latest and most effective equipment.
In fact, Tracy found this idea in a Homeland Security Magazine and followed in the footsteps of California, which has already implemented Segways into their bomb squad protocols, Hamlet said.
However, while less than half of the state?s budget has been consumed by Utah agencies, Hamlet says it?s nothing to be worry about.
?We are just closing out the budget money from the 2003 and 2004 grants,? Hamlet said. ?It?s deceiving because the programs are to be used every two years, and we?re at about 50 percent, so we?re right on track.?