State College

Local police, CATA team up for bomb training

A member of the state police bomb squad investigates a CATA bus in a mass transit bomb scenario. A multi-agency bomb squad training exercise focused on mass transit was held in the Medlar Field parking lot June 28, 2016.
A member of the state police bomb squad investigates a CATA bus in a mass transit bomb scenario. A multi-agency bomb squad training exercise focused on mass transit was held in the Medlar Field parking lot June 28, 2016. nmark@centredaily.com

A state trooper, clad in body armor, boards an idling CATA bus to investigate a suspicious package.

A second trooper, also in armor, follows closely behind, carrying tools that will help identify and disarm what could potentially be an explosive device.

But breathe a sigh of relief — there is no bomb, it’s all just a training scenario.

The joint Penn State-State College police bomb squad teamed up with state police bomb squad members Tuesday for a multi-agency training exercise outside of Medlar Field at Lubrano Park. Members of the Centre County Tactical Response Team were also present for exercises of their own.

Tuesday marked one of the first times the bomb squad has worked with the Centre Area Transportation Authority, Penn State police officer and bomb squad commander Matt White said.

If there’s going to be an incident on mass transit in Centre County, it’s going to be on a CATA bus.

Penn State police Officer Matt White

“If there’s going to be an incident on mass transit in Centre County, it’s going to be on a CATA bus,” White said. “This is new, working with CATA, and we hope to continue to work with them in the future.”

CATA provided the bus as well as maintenance workers who briefed the officers on the makeup of the bus’s layout and compressed natural gas-powered system, he said. The training will allow the squad to more effectively handle an incident on a bus.

Mass transit is the focus of many bomb squads, White said, saying the squad has trained with agencies like the Port Authority of Allegheny County and the Transportation Security Administration on rail cars and other buses.

The squad trains individually and with state police at least once a month, Penn State Emergency Management Director Brian Bittner said. The squad is certified by the FBI and has received the same nationally certified training as every bomb squad in the country.

A cooperative agreement allows the squad to work with state police and provide mutual aid to other counties wherever help may be needed, Bittner said.

“The bomb technician community is small,” he said. “It’s really tight-knit, so they’re all working together all the time.”

Jeremy Hartley: 814-231-4616, @JJHartleyNews

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