Deadly Explosions

By now I’m sure you’ve all heard of the two horrible explosions that took place over the last 24 hours – one in Tianjin, China; the other in Baghdad, Iraq.  The explosion in the port city of Tianjin occurred soon after fellow consultant Ralph Fisk and I had both separately published posts about the dangers of human caused disasters.  The explosion in Baghdad, the result of a terror attack, occurred less than 12 hours ago.

The explosions in Tianjin occurred in the port area of the city and originated as fires among shipping containers.  The origin of the fires is yet unknown or released to the public by the Chinese government.  Chemicals and explosives were within some of the containers, with reports of chemical odors still lingering there hours after the explosions occurred.  At this point, according to CNN, 50 persons are confirmed dead with more than 500 hospitalized.  Among the dead are 12 firefighters.  Many more people are missing, including dozens more firefighters.  If you’ve not seen any of video of the explosions, it is grimly spectacular.  CNN has obtained several videos from people who were recording the fire turned explosion.  This will certainly be a continuing story to keep an eye on.

In Baghdad, ISIS has reportedly claimed responsibility for a truck bomb which was detonated in in a busy market, killing dozens and injuring nearly 100 people.  Sadly we have become practically desensitized to occurrences of violence in the Middle East.  While each of them is horrible, this incident is particularly tragic with the loss of this many lives.

I rarely post about current disasters or incidents as there is plenty of commentary already out there from the media and quasi-media.  The tragedy of these, however, underscores our need to be aware of the potential for these incidents to occur and what we need to do to prepare for and respond to them.  We also need to be prepared to address the cascading impacts of these incidents – mass care, mass casualty, and mass fatality issues are certainly paramount, but we also need to consider matters such as business and government continuity.

Foundationally, it helps to know something about explosives.  For my readers who are US citizens, be sure to check out the first responder training available from the New Mexico Tech Energetic Materials Research and Testing Center (EMRTC).  They run DHS sponsored training programs such as Incident Response to Terrorist Bombings (IRTB).  These courses are intensive and greatly valuable, diving into the physics and chemistry of different explosive types and classes, terrorist methodologies, and plenty of show and tell in their range.  The course gives a solid appreciation for what explosives can do and gives you a relative awareness of how much explosive it takes to cause a certain amount of damage.  For those who are not US citizens, I believe they do work with the US State Department to review applications on a case by case basis.  I’m curious as to what type of similar training is available in other countries to domestic responders.

We are truly lucky to not suffer incidents such as these as often as other nations do.  Understand, though, that this is only due to safety and security measures that we have in place.  Accidents, however, are inevitable, as are the successful efforts of those who wish to do us harm.  We must continue to do what we can to prevent these types of incidents but also be ready for when they do occur.

© 2015 – Timothy Riecker

Emergency Preparedness Solutions, LLC


2 thoughts on “Deadly Explosions

  1. Good Afternoon Tim
    I was actually looking at both incidents and the ISIS “mustard gas” attack from several weeks back and thinking what that nations capacity to handle the influx of burn patients into an already stressed system. With the majority time in EM in the Northeast, I know that on a daily basis they were extremely limited. We did have plans to move such patients if an incident happened in Connecticut but how many states have such plans? National Disaster Medical Service (NDMS) has such plans but whom has actually exercised these plans or are even familiar with them.
    I think those of us in EM have gotten over (at least I hope to god you have) the “it will never happen here” thought process to “when it happens.
    During my training and exercise career in CT and after as a contractor, dreaming up plausible scenarios due to threat assessments was my job. It was and remains a point of frustration that persons in politically appointed positions never wanted to play out worse case and wanted the exercise toned down!
    Lone wolf attacks have arrived and it’s only a matter of time before we move from firearms to explosive. IEDs, VDIEDs, IIDs and the like are going to hit is its just a matter of when and where.
    Tim made the point of training and the programs at New Mexico Texh are excellent and a great resource to the response community. Connect with your local, region and state bomb squads, The FBI also has a Agent for WMD and Explosives to work with EM, use them as a resource.
    Just my 2 cents
    Dave Brown

    1. Dave,
      Thanks a lot for the comments. You are absolutely right that the ‘it won’t happen here’ mentality is not only dangerous, but it doesn’t aid in preparedness efforts. While credible worst case isn’t appropriate for every exercise, every jurisdiction should eventually get to it to test their plans under the greatest amount of stress. I agree that it’s simply a matter of time before we begin to see higher impact attacks on US soil. We’ve been very lucky so far. Thankfully our law enforcement, intelligence services, and homeland security professionals have thwarted or discouraged a countless number of attacks. Unfortunately, the law of averages does kick in and those who are determined to do harm will succeed. We just need to be ready for it.

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