In November 2010, police in rural Escondido, California discovered a house with over nine pounds of explosives and several industrial chemicals. It was a challenging situation: Authorities needed to obtain evidence while guaranteeing the safety of the neighbors and their own personnel.

The presence of such materials, along with radiological and biological hazards, constitutes an “unconventional threat” for homeland security. The Research, Development, Test and Evaluation Program (RDTEP) of Gettysburg-based Tripwire Operations Group are experts in products and training methods used to navigate this complex terrain. They’ve moved to the Science Center and plan to hire entry-level positions—including field work logicians, labratory technicians and scientists—in early 2013.

"Most of our focus is on helping first responders and war fighters safely identify and handle those other materials that are dangerous but aren’t typical," explains Jesse Taylor, lead chemist for Tripwire RDTEP.

According to Taylor, homeland security doesn’t just protect us from the "underwear bomber," the man who caused a 2009 plane fire while carrying explosives inside his pants. Public safety officials at sporting events and political rallies do "sweeps" of personal belongings using the same products and services. A natural disaster can pose threats similar to an intentional attack. Those involved in preserving public safety—including firefighters, local police and medical technicians—need to handle unconventional threats safely.

Currently, Tripwire’s RDTEP is working on independent sensor verification tools and Render Safe Procedures [RSP], including remote handling of materials. Their move to University City provides better access to client agencies including the Federal Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense, as well as municipal police and firefighter divisions.

"After 9/11, [homeland security] has become much more of a public issue," says Taylor. “It’s more prominent in the public eye and in popular culture. Beyond what we provide to war fighters, there are a lot of similar issues that come up for state, local and regional emergency response teams. There certainly is a bigger picture to homeland security than terrorism." Read more