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Improvised Explosive Attack

Improvised explosive device (IED) attack—advice for individuals

Attacks involving IEDs may be unlikely but it is important to be prepared to respond to such an incident. The advice below will help you plan a response. 

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 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.
  • Help 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.
  • Use caution to avoid debris that could be hot, sharp, or cause puncture wounds.
  • 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.
  • Limit your use of phones and other communications devices as much as possible (communications systems may become overloaded).

If you become trapped

  • Cover your nose and mouth with anything you have on hand to avoid inhaling 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, 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 or on a bus

  • In general, it is best to remain inside the train car unless you are in immediate danger.
  • Listen to the communication system/staff to receive instructions.
  • If you are in danger and must leave the train 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. 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 explosion site.