Explosion Scene Safety



There is a considerable amount that could and should be said about scene safety in general and specifically at the scene of an explosion. All of the scene safety related training that we have all had will be useful at the scene of an explosion. In fact, all of the training that we have completed in all areas will also be useful when responding to an explosion related incident. And, as a company officer we need to be able to apply that information to a given situation and then solve the problem accordingly. 


However, here are a few reminders. 


1. Establish Command

As scenes are generally larger and the extent of damage greater than at most scenes early command and control of the scene will limit freelancing and the potential of responders becoming part of the problem. 


2. Resources

 No one can tell you exactly what or how much will be needed to handle the incident, that information is obtained at the scene. However, good pre-emergency plans will be very useful in controlling an incident that involves an explosion. In many instances the plans are in place, i.e. Hazardous Materials Response Plans, and from those plans resources can be identified and utilized. 


3. Safety Issues


a. Structural Conditions

Building structural capabilities should always be questioned after an explosion. Even a small explosion can have an adverse affect on residential construction.


b. Hazardous Chemicals

Again, it is impossible to identify the types and level of chemicals that may be present after an explosion. Key here, is to look at the type of activity that occurs in the specific occupancy. Anytime that there is an explosion, damage may occur to containers or processes that will allow the release of hazardous materials. Generally speaking no occupancy is exempt from the release of hazardous materials and we need to keep that in mind when entering the scene. 


c. Bloodborne Pathogens

Frequently, as a result of an explosion, there are multiple injuries or fatalities. Those entering the scene should follow departmental procedures for protection against bloodborne pathogens. 


d. Utilities

In some instances the explosion may have been as a result of a fuel gas leak. However, after the explosion, those entering the scene should do so only after they are sure that the remaining utilities and equipment attached to those utilities are in a safe condition. The force of the explosion may have damaged severely electrical distribution systems, fuel gas lines, water and sprinkler systems, as well as process products. If fuel gas leaks are not controlled, additional explosions may occur. 


e. Secondary Devices

Lastly, if it has been determined that the incident is a result of the initiation of an explosive device then the company officer will need to handle all of the previous items and also the potential of a secondary device. 


Remember, if you do not know what it is........... do not touch it, move it, or poke it with a stick!

The company officer will need to obtain the assistance of the responding bomb squad to check the area for additional devices. 


In closing, the safety section may not be as lengthy as one might expect. However, any emergency scene has safety issues that must be identified and controlled prior to entry into the immediate scene. As a company officer and responders, those safety related concerns have been identified and potential controls put in place. We need to use those same controls and procedures and then match additional controls and procedures with the conditions that are found at the scene. 

1. Do not handle explosive materials, unless you are trained and equipped to do so.

2. In the event that an explosive device is suspected, there is always the possibility of second or additional devices. The area should be checked and cleared by a Bomb Technician.

3. Do not handle suspected explosive devices, evacuate the area to a safe distance and await technical assistance.

4. If the explosion was the result of a fuel gas, the leaking fuel should be shut-off. Other utilities should also be evaluated.

5. Evaluate structural conditions and reinforce as needed.

6. Evaluate surrounding hazards, i.e. Chemicals, Tanks and Storage Vessels.

7. Consider and evaluate biohazards, use appropriate personal protective equipment.

8. Complete the essential tasks to control the emergency and also limit contamination of the scene.


Maintaining safety on the scene is everyone's responsibility, pay attention to the scene and changing conditions and put controls in place to limit the exposure potential.




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Copyrightę1999, All Rights Reserved

Ron Hopkins

TRACE Fire Protection and Safety Consultants, Ltd.

123 Redwood Drive

Richmond, KY 40475