February Newsletter by Vincent Dunn Deputy Chief FDNY (Ret)
Terrorist's Bomb Explosions
A fire truck, responding to an alarm during a street riot in upper Manhattan
is fire bombed; two FDNY firefighters are badly burned. A North Caldwell, N.
J. executive opens a mailed package bomb in the kitchen of his home and is
killed by exploding shrapnel. On February 26,1993 a foreign terrorist bomb
explodes in the basement of the World Trade Center, killing six people,
injuring another 1,000 and destroying a half billion dollars' worth of
property. A domestic terrorist city kills 168 men women and children with a
bomb in Oklahoma City.
Firefighters were first on the scene at these terroristÕs deadly bombings.
Firefighters are required to take lifesaving action before, during, and
after a bomb explodes.. Firefighter throughout the nation evacuate buildings
during suspected reports of bomb placement, they provide first aid after the
blast and we must stand-by and prepare for a fire and collapse, the deadly
after- effects of an explosion A 10-year study by the Federal Bureau of Investigation reveals an increase
in bomb incidents throughout the United States. In 1992 alone, 2,989
reported bomb incidents killed 26 people, injured 375 and caused $12.5
million in damage.
There are three situations
There are three situations in which firefighters find themselves operating
at bomb incidents and each one requires us to react differently. One is when
we respond to an explosion, fire and collapse and during the operation we
discover it is the result of a bomb. This was the case in the World Trade
Center explosion and the Oklahoma City blast. The second situation is when
we discover an unexploded bomb, grenade or storage of explosives after a fire
has been extinguished. The third situation is when the fire service is called
by police to prepare for a possible fire or collapse caused by an explosion.:
Situation 1.. When firefighters
at the scene of an explosion, collapse and fire, discover it has been caused
by a bomb, they should evacuate injured to a safe area , protect the exposures,
and notify the police department;.
Situation 2. When discovering
an unexploded bomb after a fire, firefighters must not disturb the bomb. They
should evacuate the area; and prepare for a possible explosion collapse and
fire and notify the police;.
Situation 3.. When called
to a bomb incident by the police department firefighters must report to the
police officer in charge; assist as requested.
Evacuating Buildings. Firefighters
may be asked to assist police in evacuating buildings near a bomb. When requested
to do this, firefighters must understand the hazards and precedures..When
a bomb explodes, one of the greatest causes of death and injury is flying
glass. All windows will blow out to the street. Jagged, sharp glass pieces
will fly through the air with hurricane force. All protective clothing should
be worn, with eye shield down. Evacuating people from a building containing
a suspected hidden bomb is different from evacuating people from a burning
building. First, people being asked to leave a building in which a bomb is
reported hidden should be told to take all belongings with them so there will
be fewer items to search for the hidden explosives. Also, people should be
directed to leave unlocked, their desks, offices and lockers; this too will
assist the bomb search and reduce damage to locks and doors. Lights should
be left on; and computers and/or any humming office machinery should be shut
off so searchers can hear mechanical or electrical timers.
A specific stair should be designated for evacuation. People leaving the building
should be requested to leave by way of this exit. A prior search of the access
leading to the stair, the entire stairway and lobby into which the stair discharges
should have been conducted, looking for the hidden bomb package first, before
people are allowed to leave.
Firefighters generally are not requested by police to search for bombs; police
do this. However, if here are insufficient police in the community and the
fire department has personnel available on the scene, the fireground commander
may be asked to have firefighters assist a bomb search. Like evacuating a
building, bomb searching is also different from searching for fire spread.
A bomb search begins outside the building. First, vehicles parked in the street
around the building are searched, or removed, then the outside around the
perimeter of the building is examined for the bomb. Window sills on the first
floor are often the site of a package bomb. Next, the building's interior
is searched. The public spaces where a bomber could have access are examined
such as lobby, stairs, bathrooms, supply closets, refuse storage areas and
the roof.. Then the search may start in the cellar and work upward.
Types Of Bombs
Police or firefighters who search for bombs must be able to identify a bomb.
Terrorists, criminals and deranged people who use bombs to kill or destroy
use several common types of explosive devices.
A pipe bomb is a fragment bomb; it kills and injures by exploding pieces of
flying metal. This type of bomb can be identified by a section of pipe capped
at both ends. A fuse may extend from one end. Do not touch a pipe bomb discovered
at a fire.
A bottle bomb is also called a Molotov cocktail, named after a Russian government
official. It was a World War 11 anti-tank weapon (in 1993, FDNY firefighters
George Kreuscher of Engine 93 and Tom Brannigan of Engine 67 were badly burned
when a Molotov cocktail was thrown and exploded inside the cab of their fire
apparatus). A bottle filled with gasoline and sulfuric acid is capped and
wrapped in a sock soaked with potassium chlorate and sugar. When thrown, the
bottle breaks and the mixing of the sulfuric acid and potassium chlorate causes
the explosion and resulting fire.
A car bomb is a canister usually placed inside the motor compartment of an
auto. The lid of the canister is closed and sealed. A spark plug is installed
through this sealed canister lid. The wire of spark plug 1 is removed from
the engine spark plug and attached to the bomb spark plug. When the car is
started, the bomb explodes. This type bomb is sometimes used by organized
Several sticks of dynamite placed in a shoulder-strap bag with one or two
small liquid propane cylinders can create a tremendous explosion and fire.
This type of bomb could be found hanging on a hook inside a restroom stall
or inside a locker in a train or bus station.
A package or letter bomb sent through the mail often kills or injures the
wrong person. The spouse or a relative or co-worker of the intended victim
may open the mail bomb. A mail bomb can sometimes be identified by excessive
weight, oil stains, lopsided or uneven packaging, excessive postage or foreign
mail, air mail or special delivery indicators or the return address may be
Classifications Of Explosives
Three types of explosives are used in bombs: dynamite, black powder and blasting
agents. Any one of these explosives can kill firefighters. Dynamite is considered
a high explosive, black powder is considered a low explosive. The only difference
between them is the degree of heat or shock it takes to detonate each one.
The destructive potential is the same. A blasting agent is just as powerful
as a high explosive when detonated. Six Kansas City, MO, firefighters were
killed when a truck carrying blasting agents exploded during a fire.
The National Fire Protection Association classifies all three Š high explosives,
low explosives, blasting agents- as "explosive materials." And the NFPA also
states "No attempt should be made to fight a fire involving explosive materials."
The area should be evacuated to a distance of at least 2,000 feet (610 meters).
Picric acid A common response
to a potential explosion in New York City involves picric acid. An old, forgotten,
bottle of dried-out crystallized, picric acid is often discovered by a teacher
in a school or the owner of a factory calling the fire department and the
bomb squad to the scene for advice. Picric acid is a mixture of nitric acid
and phenol. After mixture, it is highly unstable. However, the addition of
water over 10 percent by content renders the mixture stable. When the water
evaporates and picric acid returns to its dry state and crystallizes, it becomes
a high explosive. A bottle of picric acid with dry powder inside can
explode by the shock of dropping or heat of fire.
I responded to an emergency alarm in a luxury high rise apartment house in
a wealthy neighborhood in Manhattan. A bottle collector was showing several
colored bottles to a friend who happened to be a chemistry teacher. The teacher
noticed a picric acid bottle partially filled with crystals. He told the collector
of the danger and they called the fire department. The first responding fire
officer arriving in the apartment was shown the bottle. He did not disturb
it, but explained the danger and asked the people to leave. He ordered the
response of the bomb squad and the evacuation of four floors above and two
floors below the apartment in the 42-story residence. A protective hoseline
was stretched from a standpipe and all firefighters withdrew to a safe distance.
The bomb squad responded and took away the bottle and its deadly contents
Bomb Prevention Crime prevention and bomb prevention are synonymous. Security
measures that prevent theft in a building prevent the placement of a bomb.
No building can be 100 percent protected from crime or a bomb, but good security
measures make a building an unappealing target.
1. Which one is not a situation in which firefighters may find themselves
operating at a bomb incident?
A. Firefighters respond to a fire and explosion and discover it was caused
by a bomb
B. Firefighters extinguish a fire and discover an unexploded bomb
C. Firefighters respond to assist the police searching for a bomb
D. Firefighters overhauling after a bomb is discovered and diffused by
2. What will be the greatest cause of death and injury when a bomb explodes
in or around a building?
A. The shock waves of the blast
B. The fire resulting from the blast
C. Flying glass
D. The heat of the blast
3.Match the following:
A. Pipe bomb _____Lockers of airports
B. Bottle bomb _____Fragment bomb
C. Car bomb _____Kills wrong person
D. Bag bomb _____Organized crime
E. Mail bomb _____Anti-tank weapon
True or false
4.The only difference between high and low explosive is the degree of shock
or heat it takes to detonate each one.
5. Which one of the following is an incorrect answer regarding evacuating
people during a bomb threat?
A. Tell them to take coats and packages
B. Tell them to lock desks and lockers
C. Leave windows and doors open
D. Designate a specific stair for occupants to leave the building
To use this newsletter for training in firehouse:
| Download PDF version January Newsletter "Collapse Search and Rescue Plan"
1. Read the newsletter.
2. Print out the newsletter.Copy for each firefighter.
3. Use bold print as key words for training presentation.
4. Use questions for discussion.
5. Use questions to test firefighters.
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