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Team SOP for Deploying Distraction Devices

Written by Ron Yanor

The team SOP for deploying flashbang distraction devices or noise flash diversionary devices (NFDD) requires four main components: simplicity, efficiency, versatility and comprehensive application.

Deployment must be simple so the drill can be easily replicated under stress. The efficiency component focuses on the safety of both the team members and the hostages. Of course, the less time spent at the door means less time spent in a danger area. Versatility in the SOP allows a degree of flexibility to apply the method to non-standard configurations. Lastly, having a comprehensive procedure provides a broad degree of continuity so that operators are not learning a totally different drill for open vs. closed doors, push vs. pull doors, etc.

Let’s cover some hard and fast rules. The second operator in the stack deploys the NFDD. This allows the point man to keep 100 percent focus on the doorway threat area. Even as the stack moves and individual positions change, the second man must be focused and ready to throw.

The point man has the authority to call for the NFDD depending on what he sees or hears while moving to the next doorway. Be sure to call on the move to allow all components to get into place efficiently. The third operator will open the door when called to do so. However, if the third man is otherwise occupied or distracted, the next available operator fills in to take that task.

Holster your handgun or let hang your long gun to access the “bang.” Having a point man as cover lets you prepare the device using both hands. It takes about 30 pounds of effort to pull a military-style pin. Have the NFDD set up in the throwing hand before pulling the pin. Swapping hands afterwards can have disastrous results.

To get the best throw angle into the room, throw with the outboard hand around the point man. Backhanding the throw increases the chance that the device will bounce back upon hitting the jamb or a partially open door. Deploy the device two to three feet inside the doorway. We want the effect to distract the occupants away from our entry point. Over-penetrating the room forces the occupants’ attention away from the point of detonation and back toward the entry point.

The deployment drill is Step-Look-Pull-Toss. Step around the point man. Look to ensure the doorway is clear. Pull the pin. Toss into the doorway. These devices are round and will generally roll, so a gentle toss is all you need.

Entry Point Procedure

A covert approach generally allows the team to stage the main operators at the entry point. As the breachers deploy from the stack, the second operator in the stack obtains his flashbang. He lays the bang across the point man’s shoulder so it can be seen by the point man and the breachers. This serves as a reminder to the stack that the flashbang will be thrown immediately after the breach. The goal is to prevent the point man from “jumping the gun” and either interfering with the throw or stepping across the threshold as the device goes off.

Immediately after deploying the “bang,” the second man reacquires his weapon. When the NFDD detonates, the stack moves as normal. With a 1.5-second average delay with U.S.-made flashbangs, there is adequate time for the second man to get ready. This is especially true for long guns on a 1- or 3-point sling. To add an extra measure of awareness, some teams will have the point man hold until he gets a slap from the second operator.

With rolling or emergency assaults, operations at the entry point are a bit less organized. The same principles are in effect—the second man in the stack will still deploy the bang. Under these circumstances, the stack tends to arrive in small groups, and they are not always in the correct order. During reorganization at the entry point, personnel with dedicated tasks, such as breachers, must form up in their designated positions. Other operators need to fill in the gaps as needed. Therefore, someone other than the selected operator may need to step into the second man slot to deploy the bang.

Room Combat SOPs

The basic concept for deploying flashbangs during room combat employs three key principles. First, the point man in the stack is authorized to call for a flashbang whenever he determines the need. This call needs to be made ASAP, generally while on the move, to reduce loitering time at the door. Follow-up commands such as “Stack right” or “Push door” need to accompany the initial call.

The second principle follows our basic rule of having the second man in the stack deploy the bang. As your position in the stack evolves and you find yourself in the second man slot, be mentally prepared to access a bang if called for. Lastly, the third operator in the stack will be the person to open any closed doors.

Again, this allows for a mental “heads up” for impending tasks during the stack’s flow through the building. Consider using a code word when calling for a distraction device. The bad guys who have been around the block or who watch reality TV may recognize the term flashbang and begin defensive measures.

Common Points

After receiving the clear signal, the point man begins leading the stack to the next doorway. As soon as he determines the status of that door, detailed orders follow. First the leader of the stack calls out whether the door is open or closed. Immediately afterwards he calls out for the flashbang if it is required. This allows the second man to start accessing his device and alerts the number three man that he will be needed to open the door.

Additional information is relayed verbally as it becomes known, such as, “Push/pull door” or “Stack left/right.” Remember, the stack relies on the front operator’s heads-up as it likely may not see the door details. It’s more important to get the information out than who calls it. If the second or third man sees a detail, then he calls it out.

Lastly, the pair of operators entering the next room must be ready to move as soon as the flashbang goes off. To maximize the stun effect, entry has to be immediate before the occupants can recover. Otherwise you will have diminished results.

Open Door Drill

As soon as possible, the point man calls out “Open door, flashbang.” The second operator stages the bang and either holsters or lets his long gun hang on its sling. From this point on, the point man must maintain 100 percent focus on the doorway to provide cover for the now unarmed second man. When the point man stops at the door jamb, the second man pauses to ensure at least one more operator from the stack has caught up. This can be eliminated if the number three man says, “I’m with you,” as he gets close.

Because the point man called for the bang, there is no need to show it as in the entry point SOP. The deployment begins with the standard protocol of Step-Look-Pull-Toss. By the time the device detonates, the second man should be tucked back into the stack and should have reacquired his weapon. The stack moves on the bang.

Closed Door Drills

To sustain continuity, the closed door drills closely mimic the procedures of the open door drills. The point man now calls out, “Closed door, flashbang.” Then, as soon as it’s determined, the door status is relayed back.

Essential information includes which side of the door is hinged and whether it’s a push or a pull door. Positioning the stack, or even splitting into two elements, must be done before the process can proceed. Consider the direction the stack is approaching in relation to the hinge side and whether the door opens in or out when deciding to stack left or right. Hint: If you can see the hinges, it is a pull door that opens toward you.

A key point is positioning the stack on the correct side of the door for the best angle of deployment so that entry is immediate on the bang’s report. The point man must be “switched on” to call out, “Stack left/right” and “Push/pull door.” The point man and second operator (flashbang deployer) will be the pair entering and clearing the next room.

Another key point is for the deployer to call aloud, “Step-look-pull-toss.” The word “step” is the cue for the third operator to push or pull open the door. Consider the following variants: pull door/knob-side approach; pull door/hinge-side approach; push door/knob-side approach; or push door/hinge-side approach.

There are some special considerations for the door opener. Always use your weak hand to access the door knob. Reach under your weapon so that if you need to fire, you can quickly grasp the weapon and your hand is out of the way of the muzzle. If the door is locked (push door only), quickly turn around so your body is protected by the jamb and execute a mule kick to the door.

For most residential doors, this is sufficient. If it doesn’t open, then call for a breacher to come up. If the door opens, call out “open” so the flashbang can be deployed. With pull doors, you want to make sure you clear the doorway/fatal funnel quickly and do not impede the stack from entering the next room. It helps if you overextend your reach to get a grip on the knob. As soon as the latch releases, quickly step back to clear the doorway.

At face value, this may seem overly complicated and time consuming. With practice, it takes only a couple extra seconds to organize the operators in the most efficient order. The operators know the task sequence and order of movement into the next room. The team is better off taking this extra step than recovering from a haphazard deployment or time lost trying to determine who will throw the bang or open the door.

No-Throw Drill

Under certain circumstances, the operator deploying the device may decide not to deploy once the door has been opened. Reasons could include the presence of a child, a flammable substance or some type of obstruction. The concern now is what to do about the flashbang. When the drill is done correctly, the pin stays in the device. Remember: Step-Look-Pull-Toss.

The verbal command is “No throw.” The point man must be “switched on” enough not to immediately rush in. Because the operator with the flashbang will be diverted by replacing the device, he steps out of the stack. The next available operator fills in the gap, says “I’m with you,” and signals the point man to go with a tap or slap.

Murphy’s Law always lurks in tactical operations. Often the pin gets pulled on the fuse assembly too early, leaving only the spoon as the final safety. When this occurs, the no-throw signal is used. Room combat must continue to flow. Then the question remains of what to do with the device. One school of thought is for the operator or partner to replace the pin in the device. Some operators carry spare pins on their vest for this purpose. A variation employs a buddy to wrap the spoon in place with electrical tape until the flashbang can be rendered safe.

Both methods require training and focus and may be too intricate for reality. A third method requires that the operator remove himself from the stack and withdraw to a safe area, usually outside, to deploy the device. The key here is constant communication from the operator to his teammates telling them of his actions.

The “I’m out” drill is perhaps the simplest of all. Recognizing that most teams equip operators with one or two flashbangs, we needed to incorporate a protocol for when the second operator cannot deploy in room combat. When the point man calls for a bang, and the number two operator recognizes he’s expended his allotment, he simply steps out of the stack and calls “I’m out.” The next available operator with a bang fills in the gap and says “On me.” Room combat proceeds as normal.

When to Deploy

While compromise authority is given to the team leader on approach, and should be given to individual operators once inside, the following are some guidelines to help in the decision-making process. For “Deploy on Approach,” the team is compromised before reaching the entry point. Distraction is used to divert attention away from the true entry point. This may also be a countermeasure for canines or when intelligence is under the impression that suspects are armed.

The “Deploy during Room Combat” tactic is used whenever a suspect fires at the team. It may also be used when the stack loses the momentum of the assault or when breaching a heavily barricaded or locked door. Finally, it is used when clearing a stairwell during a dynamic condition or when clearing an occupied crawl space or attic.

Dud Recovery

Although flashbangs made in the U.S. are extremely reliable, misfires do occur. These most often occur when an operator makes a mistake while using a reloadable device. Some reloads are sensitive to water, solvents and oils. Generally the point man will hold the entry for three to five seconds after the flashbang is thrown if no report is heard. The decision to move falls on him. When a device does not detonate, call out “dud” and continue with room combat.

During the reorganization phase, the dud is marked using crime scene tape, and non-essential personnel leave the immediate area. At that point, you visually inspect the device. Body armor and eye protection must be used. Some teams will use a shield.

There are three basic possibilities for the dud: The pin is still in place, and the device can be recovered; the pin is missing, but the spoon remains attached (The device can be counter-charged using another flashbang or nudged using a pole to dislodge the spoon.); or the device is in fact a dud and requires removal.

Once it has been determined that the device is a dud, the team goes into render-safe mode. Because EOD may be some distance away, we need a procedure to remove the device from the stronghold and retain it until that specialized unit arrives. Using a shield for protection, access a long-handled tool to place the device in a five-gallon bucket.

One operator holds the shield while a second man acquires the device. A shovel works well as do long pinchers. The bucket can be filled with sand with a void in the center for the dud. Another variation calls for water with a net suspending the dud in the middle of the bucket. Use the tool to move the bucket to a safe area until EOD arrives.

There is more than one valid protocol for any tactical situation. As with any tactic, give it a legitimate try during training and adapt the good parts to fit your team’s requirements.

Ron Yanor is retired after a 25-year law enforcement career. He spent 19 years on a 22-operator, multi-jurisdictional tactical unit, with nine years as the training and intel officer. Since 1999, he has been a contract trainer and currently operates Adamax Tactical Academy in Illinois. He is also on the staff of Tactical Energetic Entry Systems.

Published in Tactical Response, May/Jun 2011

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