If your agency received a report about a possible "car bombing" incident or suspicous vehicle how would you respond, do you take it seriously, how do you evacuate your entire downtown if the suspected vehicle is located there? These are just a few of the issues that each agency needs to think about when planning for a response to a terrorist "car bombing". Every week on the nightly news we see the scenes of chaos and destruction caused by car bombings around the globe. I have tried to take some of these "lessons learned" in Iraq and apply them to a few first responder training points. There is a tremendous amount of information available on VBIEDs that cannot be covered in the artcile due to time and size constraints. This article outlines a few of the steps that Fire/EMS providers can take to prepare for the growing threat of a potential VBIED bombing. If you have any specific questions reference any of these issues please feel free to contact me. 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.
IRAQ VBIED OVERVIEW
VBIEDs (vehicle borne improvised explosive devices) are one of the largest hazards in Iraq that Coalition Forces face. Here in Iraq there are unfortunately dozens of "car bombings" a month. As I have stated in previous articles it is important that we take these valuable and sometimes fatal lessons learned here in Iraq and apply them to our training and planning for terrorist events at home. VBIEDs have been proven a favorite and effective mode for terrorists to successfully penetrate a target and create injuries and chaos. Enemy forces are now using VBIEDs as one of the the preffered methods of attack on US forces, as this allows the attacker a standoff capability to initiate an attack, employ large amounts fo explosives, cause maximum loss of life and then quickly escape the area. It is important to remember that VBIEDs can employ from 500 or more pounds of explosives. The 1995 Oklahoma City Bombing employed approx. 2,000 pounds of fertilizer based explosives and caused tremendous damage.
In Iraq most VBIEDs are unique in nature beacuse the builder has had to improvise with the vehicles and materials at hand. VBIEDs are also usually designed to defeat a specific target or type of target, so they will generally become difficult to detect and protect against as they become more spohisticated. They have been employed against US forces by several means including:
- Using locally purchased, wireless, battery powered doorbell devices, car alarms, cordless phones or cell phones to remotely initiate VBIEDs/IEDs
- Using speaker and similiar type of locally purchased wiring to connect the explosives
- Using decoy devices (bait devices or vehicles) out in the open to slow or stop US forces in the kill zones
- Using suicide bombers to guide the vehicle into the target
For additional information on suicide bombers see "Fire/EMS Response to Suicide Bombings" - August Vernon
VBIED attacks can typically be classified in four groups.
- Single, stationary VBIED attack: These vehicles can be placed on the side of the road on major highway, busy intersection, crowded market or other choke points with a flat tire, hood up, etc. Will be detonated by timer or from a bomber watching from a distant location.
Some of the current tactics used by insurgents in Iraq is to move VBIEDs in pack of 3 cars. #1 spotter vehicle, #2 VBIED vehicle and #3 photgrapher vehicle to record the attack for later use on the insurgent websites and for recruiting purposes. Insurgents have also been recently taping the hands of the suicide bomber to the steering wheel of the vehicle. This prevents the driver from releasing the steering wheel even if injured during the attack.