Behind-the-Scenes: Scripting Destruction of the Infamous Escondido, Calif., “Bomb House”

Released: 3/16/2012 12:25 PM EDT
Embargo expired: 3/26/2012 4:45 PM EDT
Source Newsroom: American Chemical Society (ACS)
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Citations 243rd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society

Note to journalists: Please report that this research was presented at a meeting of the American Chemical Society

A press conference on this topic will be held at Noon Eastern Time, March 26, 2012, in the ACS Press Center, Room 15A, in the San Diego Convention Center. Reporters can attend in person or access live audio and video of the event and ask questions at www.ustream.tv/channel/acslive.

Newswise — SAN DIEGO, March 26, 2012 — Scientists, public safety and law enforcement officials will hold a special session here on Monday, March 26, to reveal the behind-the-scenes planning that culminated in the December 9, 2010, burning of the infamous “bomb house” in Escondido, Calif. The session, titled “How to ‘safely’ burn down a house,” is part of the 243rd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), the world’s largest scientific society. The presentation is among more than 11,700 that will be delivered at the meeting, being held here through Thursday.

On November 18, 2010, authorities found a record stash of grenades, detonators and explosives of the kind often used in terrorist attacks in the suburban home after a gardener was injured by an explosive device in the yard.

Neal Langerman, Ph.D., founder of the health, safety and environmental protection consulting firm Advanced Chemical Safety, Inc., organized a round-table discussion to show how the destruction of the house used the skills and expertise that scientists, public safety and law enforcement professionals have developed since 2001. After authorities determined that the explosives in the house were too unstable to remove, they planned a controlled burn that ultimately destroyed the house in about 30 minutes. The session will feature five experts closely involved in planning and conducting the house’s destruction and communicating with the public. They will describe the chemistry and instruments used to investigate the scene and monitor the burn.

The members of the round-table discussion will include:

    Nick Vent, Supervising Environmental Health Specialist with the San Diego County Environmental Health Department’s Hazardous Materials Division

    John Johnson, Director of Safety and Security at Thermo Fisher Scientific

    Lieutenant Mike McClain, San Diego County Sheriff’s Department

    Chris Nichols, County Government Reporter at the North County Times of Escondido, Calif.

    Chief Todd Newman, San Marcos Fire Department

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Abstract

On November 18, 2010 a landscape worker was injured by an explosive device at a residential home in Escondido California. This started a chain of events which culminated in the intentional destruction of the house on December 9, 2010. The discovery, investigation, planning, destruction and clean-up will be addressed by the experts involved. A Unified command System of 60 agencies was essential to the safe culmination of this unprecedented incident. Agency cooperation and community involvement were key factors in the planning and execution. The San Diego Sheriff's Department, Escondido Fire Department, Escondido Police Department, San Marcos Fire Department and County HazMat Team led the effort. The ThermoScientific First Defender RMX portable Ramen spectrometer provided the essential chemical information. Air dispersion modeling, including modifications to existing plume dispersion algorithms provided the information needed for community safety. Communications with the community by public meetings and media information gained the support of the community, particularly the residents who lived closest to the location. The four authors will address their areas of expertise, the challenges faced and the lessons learned. Adequate time is included for audience questions and discussions.


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