A terrorist attack on the United States remains a significant and pressing threat. Improvised explosive devices (IEDs) remain the terrorist weapon of choice due to their relative ease of construction, availability, and destructive capacity.
An improvised explosive device attack is the use of a “homemade” bomb and/or destructive device to destroy, incapacitate, harass or distract. IEDs can come in many forms, ranging from a small pipe bomb to a sophisticated device capable of causing massive damage and loss of life. IEDs may be surrounded by or packed with additional materials or “enhancements” such as nails, glass, or metal fragments designed to increase the amount of shrapnel propelled by the explosion. Enhancements may also include other elements such as hazardous materials.
Nevertheless, there are things you can do to prepare for the unexpected. Explore the information below to learn about the preparedness measures you can take and how to be proactive if you see something suspicious!
Cover photo courtesy of FEMA/Andrea Booher
Banner photo courtesy of the FBI
Within text photo courtesy of FEMA/News Photo
The number one way to protect yourself and others from an IED attack is to be aware of your surroundings and to report anything that is out of the ordinary.
Steps to Take if You See Something Suspicious
“If you see something, say something!” It can be difficult to determine when to report something suspicious. People most familiar with a given environment are in the best position to determine whether or not something seems suspicious.
Follow the guidelines below:
- Trust your instincts – if something feels wrong, don’t ignore it.
- Do not assume that someone else has already reported it.
- Call local authorities.
- Keep your distance from a suspicious package – do not approach or tamper with it.
- When you make a report, be ready to provide your name and location, a description of what you think is suspicious, and the time you saw it. The responding officer will assess the situation, ensure the area is evacuated and call for appropriate personnel and equipment.
Make a Personal Plan for Response
Preparation is key! Everyone can take the following steps to prepare for an IED attack:
- Learn the emergency procedures at your place of work, any other sites you visit regularly, and any public transportation systems you use. Communication systems may be inoperable in an emergency, so you should be familiar with what steps to take.
- Know how to get out of the area. If you work far from home, plan backups to get home if the usual modes of transit are not operating.
- Know the routes to hospitals in your community.
- Take a first aid course.
- Make a family emergency plan ─ remember that family members may be in separate locations at the time of an attack.
- Designate an “out-of-area” contact, and make sure that everyone in your family has that individual’s phone number.
- Have an emergency supply kit at work and at home that includes water and non-perishable food to last at least three days, battery-powered radio, first aid kit, flashlights, and batteries.
If you are at the immediate site of an IED attack, your top priority is to get out of the area. This increases your safety in case a secondary device is present in the area and minimizes your exposure to dust, smoke, and any hazardous substances that may have been released as a result of the blast. This also allows emergency responders to find and assist the most critically injured victims.
Click here to learn more about the steps you can take in different situations during an IED attack.
Some health effects caused by IEDs, including eye injuries and abdominal injuries, may not be apparent initially, but can cause symptoms and even fatalities hours to months after the event. Seek medical attention if you are experiencing any of these symptoms.
Additionally, psychological effects in survivors, first responders, and others may be present and are not unusual in the aftermath of a high-casualty event. Assistance from mental health professionals may be necessary.
References, Resources and More Information:
- Ready.gov – Explosions
- Colorado Information Analysis Center
- Counterterrorism Education Learning Lab (The CELL)
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – Mass Casualty Event Preparedness and Response
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – Preparing for a Bombing
- Department of Homeland Security
- Explosives are one of the most frequently used weapons by terrorists.
- Many commonly available materials, such as fertilizer, gunpowder, and hydrogen peroxide, can be used as explosive materials in IEDs.
- The term IED came into common usage during the Iraq War that began in 2003.
- A known bomber tactic is to use a distraction, such as gunfire or small bombs, to attract bystanders to a window, a doorway, or outside, and then detonate a second destructive device at the gathering point.