Washington State Crime Lab experts test flash bangs to their fiery limits

Flash bangs and tear gas are some of the most effective non-lethal weapons used by law enforcement around the world. Washington's Most Wanted's Parella Lewis went inside the Washington State Crime Lab as experts tested the limitations and capabilities of these intense tactical tools. Rick Wyant and a team from the state crime lab are testing different flash bangs. “We had some older, expired ones and we had some news ones. The older expired ones were 25 grams of flash powder, newer ones are 12, and there`s some speculation that the newer ones, since they have less flash powder, are less effective.'

They created “BANG” after “BANG,” and it turns out the new ones are just as effective. “We did some subjective testing of these that put out about a 175 decibels, which is pretty loud, and it`s really hard to get instrumentation that can measure that without spending a lot of money, so we did more of a subjective test to see if these sound louder than the other ones, and frankly the poll from all of us is you really can`t tell a difference.” Next they set out to see if they could turn a “flash” -- into a flame. 'We`re setting up a ‘Myth Buster’ worst case scenario to try and slant the experiment toward a high potential of a fire. And it took us awhile, but we were able to get some things to smolder.' It`s an important test because tools don`t always work the way they`re supposed too. “Everyone knows that they could cause fire. There`s been major incidents where a flash bang has caused a fire, but what are the chances of that happening, what`s the likelihood of a flash bang catching something on fire?” And because flash bangs aren`t always used alone, Wyant says, “We also tried some tear gas to evaluate that potential for flammability to see if you add tear gas to a potential scene to a flash bang, does that add a potential for flammability or ignition, and based on all of our experiments, it does not.” They placed tear gas inside a bucket and left it with a lit flare. It smoldered, but never caught fire. Wyant says it turns out that smaller flash bangs are better. 'These burn for about 50 milliseconds. So, that flash is very brief so it really doesn`t generate enough energy or heat to ignite most things.” And Wyant says, that makes everyone safer even in the most dangerous situations. “Now that most agencies have the smaller ones, there`s even less chance of fire or a negative outcome from the use of these devices.”