A Guide for Investigating Bomb and Explosion Scenes: Arriving at the Bomb and/or Explosion Scene

Note: Safety concerns should be continually addressed beginning with the initial response effort. Implementation of the procedures in this section will be determined by the scene circumstances.

The process of investigating bomb and explosion sites begins when first responder(s) arrive on the scene. Upon arrival, first responders should:

Conduct a preliminary evaluation of the scene. First responders must assess the scene, taking into account the scope of the incident, emergency services required, safety concerns, and evidence-related considerations.

When they first arrive at the scene, first responders should:

  • Establish a command post and implement an incident command system (i.e., a point of contact and line of communication and authority for other public safety personnel).
  • Request emergency services from bomb technicians, firefighters, EMS personnel and law enforcement officers.
  • Identify scene hazards, such as structural collapse, bloodborne pathogens, hazardous chemicals and secondary explosive devices.
  • Identify witnesses, victims and evidence.
  • Preserve potentially transient physical evidence (e.g., evidence present on victims, evidence that may be compromised by weather conditions).

DANGER: Beware of secondary devices! The scene may contain secondary explosive devices designed specifically to kill or maim public safety responders. Do not touch any suspicious items. If a suspected secondary device is located, immediately evacuate the area and contact bomb disposal personnel.

Exercise scene safety. First responders must identify and remove or mitigate safety hazards that may further threaten victims, bystanders, and public safety personnel. They must exercise due caution while performing emergency operations to avoid injuries to themselves and others.

Following the preliminary evaluation of the scene, first responders should:

  • Request additional resources and personnel (e.g., bomb technicians, building inspectors, representatives from utility companies) to mitigate identified hazards.
  • Use tools and personal protective equipment appropriate to the task during all operations.
  • Request and/or conduct a safety sweep of the area by personnel qualified to identify and evaluate additional hazards and safety concerns.
  • Mark hazard areas clearly and designate safety zones for victims and evacuees.

Administer lifesaving efforts. First responders' have a primary responsibility to rescue victims and provide treatment for life-threatening injuries. While performing emergency operations, they must preserve evidence and avoid disturbing areas not directly involved in the rescue activities, including areas containing fatalities.

First responders should:

  • Initiate rescues of severely injured and/or trapped victims.
  • Evacuate ambulatory victims, perform triage, and treat life-threatening injuries.
  • Leave corpses and their surroundings undisturbed. Removing dead bodies requires authorization.
  • Avoid disturbing areas not directly involved in rescue activities.

Establish security and control. First responders should only allow essential personnel to access a crime scene. They must also initiate documentation.

First responders should:

  • Set up a security perimeter.
  • Restrict access into and out of the scene through the security perimeter (e.g., control media, bystanders, nonessential personnel).
  • Establish staging areas to ensure that emergency vehicles have access into the area.
  • Begin documenting of the scene as soon as conditions permit (e.g., taking notes, identifying witnesses, videotaping/photographing bystanders).
Date Created: June 1, 2009