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PROTECTED FROM TERROR: Inside the bomb squad unit

Reported by: Marie Mortera
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Updated: 4/23 11:35 pm

LAS VEGAS (KSNV & MyNews3) -- The world watched as Russia hosted the Winter Olympics this past February.

From a security perspective the attention of more than 100,000 police, security agents and army troops was focused on keeping athletes and spectators safe at the games. It was also about keeping terrorist threats, like, suicide bombers, away from athletes.

Crime Tracker 3's Marie Mortera got a special look at how Las Vegas law enforcement prepares for potential threats.

In part 2 of special report “Protected From Terror,” News 3 goes inside the bomb.

On a recent morning, in a central Las Vegas fire station, all eyes are on a suspicious backpack and checking whether the surrounding areas could handle a blast – should its contents prove explosive.

“The block wall across the street will protect that building from the shockwave, so this area, where it is at right now can withstand a detonation,” said Neal Carter, a bomb squad supervisor of fire investigations.

Last year at the Boston Marathon, two backpacks containing two pressure cooker bombs were left near the finish line. Hundreds were injured and three were killed after those innocent-looking knapsacks exploded into an act of domestic terrorism.

Could it happen here?

"We average 150 calls a year,"Carter said.

That’s just in southern Nevada alone.

While most are no real threats, there are 12 or so cases that turn out to be malicious, Carter says.

Actual pipe bombs that could explode, back packs, different containers people develop.

They’ve proved deadly.

In 2007, a love triangle led to a fatal bombing at the Luxor.

Carter explains what they found.

“There was a 28-ounce coffee cup, it had a small pipe bomb in it, 4-inches long, ¾-inch pipe with end caps and he set up an initiator so soon as the cup was lifted up, it detonated and that small bomb was enough to kill him,” Carter said.

The power of even a small explosive is why technology is crucial to fend off these lethal threats.

Ready and prepared to dismantle explosive threats, another tool in the bomb squad’s arsenal are robots. Pinchers may hold an x-ray machine, to screen what is inside. Sometimes, the robots are given voices.

“If we're dealing with a would-be suicide bomber, we have them secure, we can roll that robot talk with him, tell him what to do, what not to do,” Carter said.

The robots can't be used in every case though. Sometimes bomb technicians must go in themselves wearing 85 to 90 pounds of heavy, protective gear.

This is the same gear given to soldiers dealing with improvised explosive devices or IEDs, Carter says.

Teaming up with other law enforcement agencies, including the FBI – is also key to public protection.

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