A Guide for Investigating Bomb and Explosion Scenes: Documenting the Scene

After the investigator has performed an initial walkthrough and ensured the scene is secure, he or she should document the scene in writing, photograph, and video. He or she should also locate and interview victims and witnesses. The investigator should follow these steps:

Develop written documentation. The investigator must prepare written scene documentation, which will become part of the permanent record.

The investigator should:

  • Document access to the scene.
  • Document activities, writing down dates and times associated with the incident and the investigation.
  • Describe the overall scene in writing, noting physical and environmental conditions (e.g., odors, weather, structural conditions).
  • Diagram and label scene features using sketches, floor plans, and architectural or engineering drawings.
  • Describe and document the scene with measuring equipment. This may include surveying equipment, global positioning system technology, or other available equipment.

Photograph and videotape the scene. The investigator must include photographic documentation in the permanent scene record. The scene must be photographed before any items are removed or disturbed.

The investigator should:

  • Record overall views of the scene (e.g., wide-angle, aerial, 360-degree) to spatially pinpoint items in the scene and surrounding area. (A combination of still photography, videotaping, and other techniques is most effective.)
  • Consider muting the audio portion of any video recording unless it has narration.
  • Minimize the presence of scene personnel in photographs/videos.
  • Consider photographing or videotaping the assembled crowd.
  • Maintain photo and video logs.

Locate and interview victims and witnesses. An investigator must obtain victims' and witnesses' identification, statements, and and information about their injuries.

The investigator should:

  • Identify and locate witnesses (e.g., victims who may have been transported, employees, first responders, delivery or service personnel, neighbors, passers-by) and prioritize interviews.
  • Attempt to obtain all available identifying data regarding victims/witnesses (e.g., full name, address, date of birth, work and home telephone numbers) prior to their departure from the scene.
  • Establish each witness' relationship to or association with the scene and/or victims.
  • Establish the basis of the witness' knowledge: How does the witness have knowledge of the incident?
  • Obtain statements from each witness.
  • Document victims' injuries and correlate victims' locations at the time of the incident with the seat(s) of the explosion(s).
  • Interview the medical examiner/coroner and hospital emergency personnel regarding fatalities and injuries.
Date Created: June 1, 2009