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Homeland Security

IED Attack: What to Do

If You are a Business Owner

Be aware. Many commercial products can be used to construct IEDs. Here are some simple steps you can take to avoid unwittingly enabling an attack:

  • Recognize hazardous chemicals in your product inventory.
  • Check your inventory and report missing or stolen products.
  • Ask for customer identification and maintain a log of large purchases.
  • Know your customers and report suspicious or unusual purchases to authorities.
  • Watch for suspicious behavior, which can include:
    • Nervousness.
    • Vague knowledge of a product's proper use.
    • Purchasing unusual quantities of a product.
    • Large cash purchases.
    • In storage facilities, customers utilizing a facility at unusual hours; odors, liquids, or fumes coming from a storage unit; discarded chemical containers.

The number one way to protect yourself and others from an IED attack is to be alert to your surroundings. Advanced technologies help police and other authorities detect possible dangers, but an even more effective tool is to encourage individuals to be alert for, and to report, anything that is out of the ordinary in their daily routine. Examples include bags or boxes in unusual places, unusual smells, and suspicious behaviors such as someone dressed in a heavy coat in summer.

Steps to Take if You See Something Suspicious

"If you see it, say it!"

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 is out of the ordinary. Use common sense, and follow these guidelines:

  • 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, your 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. Technologies used to assess whether a package contains explosive material may include portable x-ray systems or bomb disposal robots.

Make a Personal Plan for Response

Preparation is key. Every person can take these 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, and 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. Use planning tools at to prepare yourself and your family,
  • Designate an "out-of-area" contact, and make sure that everyone in your family has that person’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.

What to Do During an IED Attack

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.

If you are in a building:

  • Get under a sturdy table or desk if objects are falling around you.
  • Exit as quickly as possible, without stopping to retrieve personal possessions or make phone calls. Assist other victims to leave the area if possible. Use stairs instead of elevators. Be aware of weakened floors and stairways, and watch for falling debris as you exit the building.

Once you are out of the building:

  • Move away from windows, glass doors, or other potentially hazardous areas.
  • Continue moving away from the blast site and look for emergency officials who will direct you to a safe location.
  • Be aware that secondary explosions may occur at or near the original bombing site, especially as rescue personnel arrive. Use caution to avoid debris that could be hot, sharp, or cause puncture wounds.
  • Limit your use of phones and other communications devices as much as possible, because communications systems may become overloaded.

If you become trapped:

  • Cover your nose and mouth with anything you have on hand to limit inhalation of dust or other hazardous materials. Dense-weave cotton material can act as a good filter.
  • Avoid unnecessary movement so you don’t kick up dust.
  • Signal your location to rescuers by using a flashlight or whistle, or by tapping on a pipe or wall.
  • Shout only as a last resort. Shouting can cause you to inhale dangerous amounts of dust and drain your energy.

If you are nearby, but not at the immediate site of an attack:

  • Assess the environment around you before taking any action.
  • Avoid being lured closer to see what is happening because the risks from secondary attacks or hazardous materials could be extremely high.
  • Listen for, and follow, instructions from local authorities and building personnel. If no information is immediately available from local officials, stay away from windows and doors and move to an inner area of a building until directed differently by authorities.

If you are in a train, on the subway, or on a bus:

  • In general, it is best to remain inside the train car unless you are in immediate danger.
  • Use the communication system on the train car to receive instructions.
  • If you are in danger and must leave the car, be aware of hazards on the tracks or in the tunnel and move with caution to the nearest station or point where you can contact emergency personnel.
  • Open windows or doors if possible and if it is safe to do so, because it can reduce the severity and number of injuries from a secondary explosion.

Caring for the injured:

  • First aid you provide may save lives. The most likely help you may need to provide is to control bleeding. Apply direct pressure to the bleeding site.
  • Nearby hospitals may be overwhelmed with victims. If you need to transport victims who are not severely injured, go to a hospital that is further from the bombing site.
Last Published Date: August 9, 2012
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