Fire/EMS Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Devices Response

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?

US Armed Forces and security contractor teams in Iraq use several methods to deal with this hazard when on the road. All personnel in a vehicle remain constantly alert and try to avoid these suspicous vehicles and vehicle choke points, constant communications with other vehicles in the patrol or convoy, varying routes and times, switching lanes at random and many other means (not listed here due to security concerns) when used will help reduce the risk from these devices.The methods of attack listed above are currently described in such means as the insurgents training and recruitment videos, Al Qaeda Manuals and several extremists websites making them easily available to anyone with an interest. Any of the means described above could be used in the United States during a terrorist attack. The design and implementation of these devices are only limited by the imagination of the bomber.

These tactics are neccesary due to the extreme environment in Iraq. But, when responding to a VBIED/IED event or suspected VBIED/IED first responders in the United States need to become somewhat more "tactical" in their thinking. When responding get all the dispatch information you can, look at the routes into the event, survey the scene for a moment, keep an "escape route" to get out of the scene quickly,look at the area where you are parking and staging, be aware of secondary devices, etc. 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.


Pre-detonation response occurs before an explosion occurs. If there's a report of a possible VBIED, little time will be available for police intervention if the vehicle is being driven by a possible homicide bomber. Especially when the vehicle is moving toward their target. The following are important considerations to prepare for response to bombings:

  • 9-1-1 call takers/dispatchers must obtain as much information as possible. Every effort should be made to keep the callers on the line during the response. Extreme specificity should be obtained from the caller about the direct knowledge they possess as to why the vehicle is suspected of being a possible VBIED.


Post-detonation response takes place after an explosion has occurred. It's important to note that a VBIED bombing has the overwhelming potential to produce a large number of victims and fatalities:

  • 9-1-1 call takers/dispatchers must get as much information as possible.


If a first responder (Fire, EMS, Law Enforcement) comes across a suspicous vehicle or device during routine activities immediately inform all personel and leave the area. DO NOT USE YOUR RADIO for this activity until your are some distance away (300-500 meters) from the vehicle. If you find yourself next to a possible VBIED/IED the responder should take these steps:

  • Call out to other personel that you have found something (wires, devices, containers, etc.)
  • Do not touch or move anything.
  • Do not open or close doors, hood, trunk, etc.
  • If inside the vehicle exit the same way you entered.
  • Move yourself, other responders and the public out of the area as quickly as possible.

At this point in the incident time could be essential as the device could possibly be set on a timer or could be detonated remotely by an individual watching the incident. Remember that if you discover either an exploded or unexploded VBIED that you have discovered a serious crime scene and must be treated as such. Several important decisions will need to be made at the scene.


The Incident Management System(IMS) is one of the best tools for agencies to use to deal with these type of events. Upon being notifed of an actual or suspected VBIED the Incident Commander (IC) should implement the US Army 5 C's RULE: CONFIRM there is a device, CLEAR the area, CORDON the location off, CONTROL all entry and exit points and CHECK the immediate area for secondary devices. A VBIED or IED response is also very similiar to a hazardous materials response with your "zones of control": Hot zone (where device is located), Warm Zone (where the perimiter will be established) and the Cold Zone (location of Unified Command Post, staging, etc.) All appropriate agencies (Fire, EMS, Law Enforcement, Bomb Squad, OEM, hospital,etc.) should be notified as soon as possible. According to the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) the minimum safe evacuation distance for a small compact sedan loaded with up to 500 pounds of explosives is 1,500 feet. Larger vehicles can require up to 6 or 7,000 feet for the minimum safe evacuation distance. Something to think about when there could be dozens or even hundreds of people within that range that will need to be quickly and safely evacuated away from the "hot zone".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.