Explosive Event

Explosions can be a result of an accident or human negligence, or intentional. The immediate blast can cause casualties by injuring people nearby. There may be additional environmental hazards from airborne dust and surface contamination from the blast. Terrorists can also use explosives with the intention to hurt people, damage buildings and other structures. They may use the explosives as a vehicle to scatter biological, chemical, or radiological materials, and cause even more damage.

In the event of an explosion, what can happen?

Injuries may occur from blast pressure, fire, and/or flying or falling debris, including sharp objects and glass. Injuries can range from minor cuts and lacerations to life-threatening and/or fatal injuries such as blunt trauma or blast injury to the lungs. The number of deaths due to explosive events may be higher if the explosion involves structural collapse or occurs in a confined space. In addition to injuries, there may be other concerns, including:

  • The presence of secondary devices or explosions, especially if terrorism is involved;
  • Exposure to hazardous contaminants such as chemicals, biological agents, or radioactive materials;
  • Inability to safely leave the affected area;
  • If the explosion was intentional, there may be other dangerous components of the bomb such as nails, glass, or metal fragments;
  • Disruption of electricity, natural gas, or water pipes;
  • Public transportation or roads may be affected;
  • Fire and smoke.

Who might be affected?

Those who may be physically affected include persons in the immediate area and those may be exposed to smoke resulting from fires. Bystanders and witnesses (may be a problem if radiation or biological agent dispersion was involved), rescue and recovery workers, people rushing to the site may get injured as well. In addition, anyone may be emotionally affected by explosive events and similar disasters.

What should I do after an explosion?

Explosions can cause not only immediate death and serious injury to people at the site, but they can also cause damage that is not immediately visible. If not in the area, do not rush to the site of the explosion. You may put yourself at greater risk. Also, any people rushing to the site, who are not trained responders, may not understand the whole situation and interfere with rescue efforts. Always listen to the instructions given by authorities -first responders at/near the site and also to the instructions given on TV/ radio from an official source or through social media or city websites. If you were close enough to see and/or hear the explosion, you should go indoors and/or move away from the explosion. If you are indoors and appear to be in a safe place, stay there. You may close windows, air conditioners, and/or ventilation units to prevent smoke outdoors from entering indoors. If you were in the immediate area and you have dust/debris on your person or clothing you can remove your outer clothing.

You may be told to 'shelter in place.' What does that mean?

People who live near an area affected by an explosion may be asked to stay home and take shelter inside, rather than try to leave the area or building they are in. This action is called 'sheltering in place.' City emergency responders will immediately begin to assess the situation to determine the possible presence of any additional hazards. In certain circumstances, such as the release of dangerous chemicals, it is usually safer to shelter in place during the time the chemicals are in the air, rather than to go outdoors. The same may be true for a radiological event. The thick walls of your home, office building, or your children's schools may provide the best protection against radiation. City officials will use TV, radio, social media, and City websites to tell you what further precautions you can take to reduce exposure to terrorist threats. If you are away from your home or office when an event occurs, find the nearest building, house, or store where you can tune in to TV and radio broadcasts and check nyc.gov to receive the latest recommendations on what to do to stay safe.

I was in the area. What do I do?

  • Check for injuries. If you are injured seek immediate medical assistance.
  • If you are experiencing immediate health problems, such as shortness of breath or a burning feeling on your skin, eyes, mouth, or throat and lungs, call 911.
  • As soon as you are able, remove your clothing, taking care to not further disturb any dust or debris and place your clothing in a sealable, labeled plastic bag. Removal of outer clothing has been shown to remove up to 90% of contaminants from your body.
  • It is best to leave shoes and any outer clothing outside your apartment or home so that you do not track in dangerous materials. Store your clothing in a safe, isolated area and listen for instructions about the possible presence of hazardous materials. As more information becomes available this information will be posted on-line and disseminated through media channels.
  • Shower with lukewarm water, shampoo your hair. For incidents involving radiation, it is recommended that hair conditioners not be used because they can bind radioactive material to hair protein, making decontamination more difficult.

My children are at school. What do I do?

Smoke is a complex mixture of different gases and particles. Regardless of what specific materials are burned and in the smoke, it can cause health effects. Common health effects, such as minor irritation, do not usually require a visit to your doctor. You should seek medical attention immediately, however, if you experience more serious symptoms, such as shortness of breath or chest pains. Also see your doctor if you have asthma, heart disease or another medical condition that you feel is worsening .

Is there anything else in the debris or air that can be harmful?

It is possible that the debris caused by an explosion contains hazardous materials that were either in the building before the explosion or intentionally added. Typical building materials may include asbestos, silica, metals, refrigerant gases, volatile organic compounds such as gasoline or heating oil, or other chemicals that may have been in the building or area. Very small particles, gases, or vapors may be present in the air in the immediate area initially after the blast but will settle relatively quickly following the explosion. Avoid disturbing debris as it may contain materials that may be hazardous to health.

How will I cope?

An explosion in NYC can be very stressful, especially if it is large scale event. It can disrupt your everyday life and make you and those around you feel less safe. You may experience fear and uncertainty. Learning about stress and strategies to manage it can help you cope. Prepare Today, Cope Better Tomorrow - Stress during Disasters provides basic information and practical advice on dealing with the stress and anxiety caused by disasters. It is available in seven languages. If there is a flu outbreak in the city and you feel overwhelmed and unable to cope, or if you are concerned about someone else, you can find help by calling 988. 988 is a free, confidential helpline for New York City residents, available 24/7, with trained staff ready to take your calls and offer advice.

What else can I do?

Avoid the area of the blast. Do not go to hospitals if not injured or critically ill unless told to do so by city officials. Hospital emergency departments must first attend to those who need immediate care. Listen for updates and cooperate fully. Call 311 if you have specific questions.

Where can I get help?

New York City will work with support agencies and organizations such as the American Red Cross to provide mental health staff and support services at Family and/or Disaster Assistance Centers when set up. Listen for public service announcements for information on the event and where to go for help. Call 311 or visit NYC on-line to find out more information about places to get help.