Fire & EMS Response To Improvised Explosives Devices

Each year across North America there are dozens of events involving actual and suspected IEDs. Unfortunately here in Iraq there are dozens of IED events weekly.

Tactical medics are great assets to any agency or special team on "Critical Incident" responses (active shooters, barricaded subjects, civil unrest, IEDs, VIP escorts, meth lab responses, etc.) These medics have received additional training in multiple subjects such as firearms use, remote site medical care, IEDs, terrorism, preventive medicine, tactics, ballistic injuries, etc. One excellent resource for additional information on tactical medicine and tactical medic training is the company


It must be recognized that there are serious domestic and international threat groups/individuals that are willing and able to design and use IEDs against the public and first responders. One important note to remember is that there are active hate groups and extremists located in all 50 states.

Preparation is the key to an IED incident and that includes a clear idea of your actions before the incident occurs. The first step in your preparation is providing proper training to all response personnel. This should include an awareness of the hazards associated with IEDs/UXO and the proper steps for the responder to take. Successful IED/UXO awareness or recognition training can easily be done for first responders in as little as a few hours.

If there is a local bomb squad or hazardous devices unit in your area, contact them to ask for assistance with your training and planning. Most bomb techs will be glad to provide your agency with training on their procedures and equipment since they will require your support during an actual incident.

One key issue for Fire/EMS is that it is a good idea to become familiar with your local bomb squad entry suits so in case of emergency you will know how to remove one from an injured bomb technician.

Another excellent training resource in the United States for first responders is the Incident Response to Terrorist Bombings (IRTB) course located in Soccoro, New Mexico. The course is funded through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. This course provides the first responder with a tremendous amount of information regarding planning for and responding to IED or terrorist events. The student will be able to personally witness actual live explosive events ranging from a small PVC pipe bomb to a large VBIED (car bomb). The course also allows the student to return to their respective agency and provide awareness level training. For additional information please see


Though not related to Iraq, there is one key issue that we should address. This is the most common response in the U.S. where a first responder could possibly be exposed to some type of IED type hazard.

One growing hazard related to IEDs that all first responders need to be aware of is Meth or Clan Labs. In addition to the chemical and process hazards at a clandestine drug lab, responders need to be aware of anti-personnel devices (APD) or booby traps that can include IEDs. These devices are designed to protect the owner?s investment while they are away and to serve as warning devices to aid the owner's or operator's escape from the site. Unfortunately they are also designed to incapacitate first responders and have done so in the past. Every year across the United States there are thousands of drug labs discovered and several first responders injured at these scenes. In a meth lab situation DO NOT touch anything and stay ALERT!

The information provided in this article is for educational purposes only. Please follow all local procedures and guidelines when responding to these types of events. The world has drastically changed since 9-11-2001 and will continue to do so. The information presented here is intended to help agencies with planning and training efforts. The community has entrusted us with their safety so we must prepare now!

August Vernon is currently a U.S. Department of Defense Security Contractor serving in Iraq, providing high threat day/night tactical armed escorts for personnel, convoys and other assets. He has served with Emergency Management since 2000 and the Fire Service since 1990. Currently a North Carolina Fire Service Instructor, Vernon served as a Nuclear-Biological-Chemical Operations Specialist with the U.S. Army from 1991-1995. He teaches courses in Hazardous Materials, Terrorism/WMD Response and Incident Management and has written articles published in various publications. August can be reached for reference questions, comments and presentations at