SOCCORO, N.M. – A major facet of the Department of Homeland Security's (search) mission is to keep terrorists from detonating bombs in the United States. In order to better protect the country, however, the department has also been doing some exploding of its own.
Ground zero for the department’s explosive training is at New Mexico Tech (search) in Socorro, N.M., where first responders from around the country attend classes on the ins and outs of bombs.
These firefighters, paramedics and police learn about a range of topics, including the physics of bombs and their impacts, and how pieces of evidence from a scene can help investigators reconstruct the type of explosive and, potentially, who made it.
“We don't teach them to collect the evidence, what we teach them is what evidence is going to be important," said Van Romero of New Mexico Tech.
Attendees also are trained in preventative measures, such as how to identify what seemingly innocuous materials can be used to construct devastating explosive devices.
As Steven Aragon (search), a bio-terrorism planner said, the purpose of such training is to ensure that first responders “can go to a scene and better obtain the in-depth knowledge from a lay person that may not know what they really saw."
Aside from the technical aspects of the experience, the training also proves valuable on a more basic level, such as demonstrating just how powerful these devices are.
After a 500-pound ammonium-nitrate car bomb left some pieces of the vehicle 1,600 feet away, one student said, “You saw it, you heard it, you felt it. You just can't duplicate that in a classroom"
Click on the video box at the top of this story for FOX News' Alicia Acuna's full report.