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What DHS does during an Explosives Terrorist Attack

An explosives terrorism attack is an incident in which a hostile non-state actor(s) deploys a man-portable improvised explosive device (IED) in the United States against a concentration of people, and/or structures such as critical commercial or government facilities, transportation targets, or critical infrastructures sites etc., resulting in at least one fatality or injury. Here's how DHS would mobilize to respond to such a threat.

Visualization of the DHS Organizational Chart During an Explosives Terrorism Incident

Download "Incident Type: Explosives Terrorism Attack" (845KB JPG)





  • The Secretary of Homeland Security is the principal Federal official for domestic incident management
  • Activates appropriate Emergency Support Functions (ESFs) and response coordinating structures; coordinates with the head of the FBI in the law enforcement investigation
  • Responsible for recommending to the President of the United States that authorization be given to allow Federal resources to be deployed to assist State and local jurisdictions whose resources or capacity for effective response to the terrorist incident are overwhelmed
  • Ensures that, as appropriate, incident information is prepared and disseminated to the public
  • Along with the Attorney General of the United States, advises the President on public messaging options

Military Advisor

  • Serves as the focal point for DHS-DoD collaboration for homeland defense and incident management
  • Synchronizes and coordinates with DoD operations through overseeing Military Assistants to the Secretary and Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security
  • As the senior U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) officer resident at DHS headquarters, facilitates action involving USCG

Office of Public Affairs

  • DHS, through the Office of Public Affairs, assumes responsibility for coordinating federal communications
  • If the Emergency Support Function (ESF) for External Affairs is activated, the National Joint Information Center (NJIC) will coordinate with and supports the White House, Secretary of Homeland Security, the National Operations Center (NOC) Crisis Action Team, and the National Response Coordination Center
  • Mobilizes to coordinate Federal, State, Local, and private sector communications in the NJIC using proven systems like the National Incident Communications Coordination Line (NICCL), State Incident Communications Coordination Line (SICCL), and Private Sector Incident Communications Coordination Line (PICCL)

Domestic Nuclear Detection Office

  • If the terrorist incident is nuclear in nature, coordinates nuclear forensics activities among domestic and international partners to respond to and attribute nuclear incidents/attacks

Office of Health Affairs

  • Advances situational awareness and appropriate medical support to incident operations
  • Provides health experts to the NOC and FEMA National Response Coordination Center (NRCC)
  • Informs DHS leadership on all health related issues arising from disaster operations

Office of Operations Coordination

  • The National Operations Center (NOC) begins notifications to the Secretary’s office and posting reports on the Homeland Security Information Network
  • Activates the DHS Crisis Action Team, surging the appropriate personnel to isolate and manage the crisis as it unfolds

Office of Intelligence & Analysis

  • Leverages its network of Fusion Centers on the ground to fuse intelligence with that coming out of the broader U.S. intelligence community to inform decision making among Leadership as well as among first responders
  • Fuses incoming intelligence into a Common Operating Picture (COP)
  • Activates the Intelligence Crisis Action Team (ICAT) to analyze and confirm information regarding the incident. ICAT vets all incoming leads for their veracity, dispelling false or unverified information and disseminates confirmed, accurate leads to the appropriate personnel
  • Along with FBI, may publish unclassified Joint Intelligence Bulletins for use by law enforcement, covering confirmed aspects of the investigation, details of devices that may have been used in the attack, and publicizing protective measures for use by local law enforcement

Office of Intergovernmental Affairs

  • Immediately following an attack, reaches out to other major cities to inform stakeholders there of the ongoing DHS response, and encourages them to reach out to DHS in the event their city needs DHS support

National Protection and Programs Directorate

  • The Federal Protective Service increases its security posture at Federal buildings, including reducing entrances to facilities, re-screening building occupants, and increasing canine sweeps

Office of Policy

  • Provides timely advice and analysis to the Secretary and other Departmental decision-makers.

Science and Technology Directorate

  • May deploy technologies developed by DHS in conjunction with the academic community and private sector that may be of use to first responders as the incident necessitates

United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP)

  • CBP works with state and local law enforcement to deploy air assets and other forms of transportation support
  • CBP’s National Target Center re-vets all flights departing or already departed to identify any potential subjects of interest linked to the attack who may be attempting to flee
  • U.S. Border Patrol agents along the nearest national border conduct enhanced outbound operations
  • Once suspect(s) are identified, will investigate leads through multiple DHS owned and operated databases

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

  • FEMA activates the appropriate Regional Response Coordination Center to monitor response operations in the event federal assistance becomes necessary

United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)

  • ICE agents embedded in the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) and field command posts provide investigative support
  • ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) agents and Enforcement and Removal Operations personnel assist the FBI in establishing an extended, secure perimeter around attack site
  • ICE agents pair with FBI agents in the field to amplify this coverage
  • Staffs the FBI command post and deploys agents to attack site
  • Once suspect(s) are identified, will investigate leads through multiple DHS owned and operated databases

Transportation Security Administration (TSA)

  • Activates its Visual Intermodal Preparedness and Response (VIPR) teams and initiates heightened operations for outbound flights
  • This includes heightened security measures—both seen and unseen—throughout the affected region’s airports. May include increased explosive trace detection, canine deployment, gate checks, and behavior detection activities

United States Coast Guard (USCG)

  • Increases all vessel and facility security security measures across nearby ports and waterways
  • Safeguards the members of the public within the maritime transportation system
  • The Coast Guard Investigative Service (CGIS) may also assist with computer forensics and analyzing media data such as video surveillance

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)

  • When suspects are identified, may investigate whether they are foreign nationals and, if so, provide the original noncitizen files to the FBI
  • Supplies the National Counterterrorism Center with analysis of suspect(s)’ immigration history, security and background checks, and citizenship history for the family

United States Secret Service (USSS)

  • U.S. Secret Service agents embedded in the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) and field command posts to provide investigative support
  • Leveraging private sector partnerships and their advanced cyber forensics capabilities, Secret Service agents work to identify suspect financial transactions that may be tied to the terrorist(s)’ source of financing
  • Using its Cyber Intelligence section and National Media Exploitation Center, analyzes terabytes of video data to provide information on possible suspects to the JTTF
  • Staffs the FBI command post and deploys agents to the attack site


  • While not a component of DHS, statutorily the FBI has lead investigative authority for terrorism related incidents
Last Updated: 01/10/2022
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