IED, Bioweapons and Dirty Bombs- Overview and Recognition

IED’s Improvised Explosive Devices, Bioweapons and Dirty Bombs-Overview and Recognition�

An IED can be almost anything with any type of material and initiator. It is a homemade device that is designed to cause death or injury by using explosives alone or in combination with toxic chemicals, biological toxins, or radiological material. IEDs can be produced in varying sizes, functioning methods, containers, and delivery methods. IEDs can utilize commercial or military explosives, homemade explosives, or military ordnance and ordnance components.

They are unique in nature because the IED builder has had to improvise with the materials at hand. Designed to defeat a specific target or type of target, they generally become more difficult to detect and protect against as they become more sophisticated.

They are also emplaced to avoid detection and improve effectiveness. Most are victim-activated, but some may involve remote or command detonation devices. The use of booby traps is limited only by the imagination. Booby traps are victim-activated devices intended to create casualties and terror and may or may not be found in areas of tactical significance.� There are different ways to set off / innitiate Either electrically, slow or fast burning fuse, radio control(mobile phone or garage door openers seem the most popular at the moment). Quite often a radio control or electrically innitiated IED will have to have the person setting it off in line of site to the device so they can tell when their victim is close to it.

Booby traps:

  • �������� Are usually explosive in nature.
  • �������� Are usually activated when an unsuspecting person disturbs an apparently harmless object performs a presumably safe act.
  • �������� Are designed to kill or incapacitate.
  • �������� Cause unexpected random casualties and damage.
  • �������� Create an attitude of uncertainty and suspicion, in effect lowering morale and inducing a degree of fear.
  • �������� Threaten force protection.

IEDs fall into three types of categories:

Though they can var widely in shape and form, IEDs share a common set of components and consist of the following:

  • �������� An initiation system or fuze;
  • �������� Explosive fill;
  • �������� A detonator;
  • �������� A power supply for the detonator; and
  • �������� A container.

Improvised devices are characterized by varying employment techniques. In most of the techniques shown below,� using one of the several following techniques:

  • �������� Coupling is a method of linking one mine or explosive device to another, usually with detonating cord. When the first device is detonated, it also detonates the linked explosive. This technique is often used to defeat countermine equipment, such as mine rollers or to set up a secondary booby trap.
  • �������� The roller will pass over the initial, unfuzed device and set off the second fuzed device. This in turn detonates the overpassed device underneath the clearing vehicle. When the linked devices are directional fragmentation mines, they can create a large, lethal engagement area.
  • �������� Buried mines, UXOs, or other explosive devices are stacked on top of one another. The device buried deepest from the surface is fuzed. Fuzing only the deepest ordnance helps mask no- and low-metal explosive hazards placed near the surface. This reduces the probability of detection by metal detectors, and it increases the force of the blast.
  • �������� Sensitizing antitank (AT) mines. On some nonmetallic AT mines, the pressure plate is cracked and the spring is removed to reduce the pressure required to initiate the mine. Similarly, the pressure plate can be removed from metallic AT mines to create the same effect. A pressurefuzed AP mine can be placed on the top of an AT mine, thus creating a very large AP mine as an alternative method.
  • �������� Daisy chaining. AP mines may be used in daisy chains linked with other explosive hazards. Enemy forces may link the mines together with trip wire or detonating cord. When the initial mine is detonated, the other mines may detonate. This may also create large, lethal engagement areas.


By definition, booby traps are disguised or well-hidden, victim-activated devices. The initiating object is going to be fairly obvious, as it is the object that a terroist hopes a target will interfere with in order to set off the trap. Booby traps rely on an unwary or distracted target touching or pulling a physical object (such as a bag left unsupervised) or provide a too-easy access or simple solution to a problem (such as leaving only one door open in an otherwise secure building).

People must constantly question why things are positioned where they. A terrorist cell will watch reactions and procedures executed when moving through an area. They will be looking for natural behavior and weaknesses in peoples movements. For example, in Vietnam, the Vietcong noticed soldiers liked to kick empty soda cans that were lying on the ground. It was not long before the US troops found that the VC were leaving explosive devices in empty cans lying alongside regular patrol routes. The devices were activated when the cans were kicked.

Many of the booby trap indicators mirror those of mines.

  • �������� Electrical wires, batteries, booby traps, and store items (clothes pegs, mouse traps, steel tubes, and springs).
  • �������� Isolated boxes and containers along routes.
  • �������� Abandoned vehicles, military equipment, weapons, uniforms, and papers.
  • �������� Trip wires, string, and cables.
  • �������� Disturbed soil and sand.
  • ��������
  • �������� Footprint trails that stop suddenly.
  • �������� Oily stains on packaging or envelopes

Buildings and vehicles are excellent sites for booby trap warfare. If unsecured buildings/vehicles have to be entered and occupied, assume that they are booby-trapped. Likely targets are restrictive areas like doorways, windows, and areas of approach that are typically used. These are likely targets because people will have to move through them. These areas are likely to be booby-trapped. Once inside, hallways, interior doorways, staircases, and floors provide restricted access and are again prime sites. Any remaining furniture or household objects will have to be cleared prior to use.

Potential VBIED Indicators

  • �������� License plates inconsistent with vehicle registration
  • �������� Obviously carrying a heavy load, heavy rear end
  • �������� Modification of truck or van with heavy duty springs to handle heavier loads
  • �������� Rentals of vans with false papers for dry runs
  • �������� Rental of self-storage space for the purpose of storing chemicals or mixing apparatus
  • �������� Delivery of chemicals directly from the manufacturer to a self-storage facility or unusual deliveries of chemicals to residential or rural addresses
  • �������� Theft of explosives, blasting caps, or fuses, or certain chemicals used in the manufacture of explosives
  • �������� Chemical fires, toxic odors, brightly colored stains, or rusted metal fixtures in apartments, hotel/motel rooms, or self-storage units due to chemical activity.
  • �������� Small test explosions in rural wooded areas.
  • �������� Treatment of chemical burns or treatment for missing hands/fingers.
  • �������� Untreated chemical burns or missing hands/fingers.



A bioterrorism attack is the deliberate release of viruses, bacteria, or other germs (agents) used to cause illness or death in people, animals, or plants. These agents are typically found in nature, but it is possible that they could be changed to increase their ability to cause disease, make them resistant to current medicines, or to increase their ability to be spread into the environment. Biological agents can be spread through the air, through water, or in food. Terrorists may use biological agents because they can be extremely difficult to detect and do not cause illness for several hours to several days. Some bioterrorism agents, like the smallpox virus, can be spread from person to person and some, like anthrax, can not. For information on which bioterrorism agents can be spread from person to person.

Bioterrorism agents can be separated into three categories, depending on how easily they can be spread and the severity of illness or death they cause. Category A agents are considered the highest risk and Category C agents are those that are considered emerging threats for disease.

Category A

These high-priority agents include organisms or toxins that pose the highest risk to the public and national security because:

  • �������� They can be easily spread or transmitted from person to person
  • �������� They result in high death rates and have the potential for major public health impact
  • �������� They might cause public panic and social disruption
  • �������� They require special action for public health preparedness.

Category B

These agents are the second highest priority because:

  • �������� They are moderately easy to spread
  • �������� They result in moderate illness rates and low death rates
  • �������� They require specific enhancements of CDC’s laboratory capacity and enhanced disease monitoring.

Category C

These third highest priority agents include emerging pathogens that could be engineered for mass spread in the future because:

  • �������� They are easily available
  • �������� They are easily produced and spread
  • �������� They have potential for high morbidity and mortality rates and major health impact.

Category A

�High-priority agents include organisms that pose a risk to national security because they

  • �������� can be easily disseminated or transmitted from person to person;
  • �������� result in high mortality rates and have the potential for major public health impact;
  • �������� might cause public panic and social disruption; and
  • �������� require special action for public health preparedness.


  • �������� Anthrax (Bacillus anthracis)
  • �������� Botulism (Clostridium botulinum toxin)
  • �������� Plague (Yersinia pestis)
  • �������� Smallpox (variola major)
  • �������� Tularemia (Francisella tularensis)
  • �������� Viral hemorrhagic fevers (filoviruses [e.g., Ebola, Marburg] and arenaviruses [e.g., Lassa, Machupo])

Category B

Second highest priority agents include those that

  • �������� are moderately easy to disseminate;
  • �������� result in moderate morbidity rates and low mortality rates; and
  • �������� require specific enhancements of CDC’s diagnostic capacity and enhanced disease surveillance.


  • �������� Brucellosis (Brucella species)
  • �������� Epsilon toxin of Clostridium perfringens
  • �������� Food safety threats (e.g., Salmonella species, Escherichia coli O157:H7, Shigella)
  • �������� Glanders (Burkholderia mallei)
  • �������� Melioidosis (Burkholderia pseudomallei)
  • �������� Psittacosis (Chlamydia psittaci)
  • �������� Q fever (Coxiella burnetii)
  • �������� Ricin toxin from Ricinus communis (castor beans)
  • �������� Staphylococcal enterotoxin B
  • �������� Typhus fever (Rickettsia prowazekii)
  • �������� Viral encephalitis (alphaviruses [e.g., Venezuelan equine encephalitis, eastern equine encephalitis, western equine encephalitis])
  • �������� Water safety threats (e.g., Vibrio cholerae, Cryptosporidium parvum)

Category C

Third highest priority agents include emerging pathogens that could be engineered for mass dissemination in the future because of

  • �������� availability;
  • �������� ease of production and dissemination; and
  • �������� potential for high morbidity and mortality rates and major health impact.

Agents (Anthrax being the most widely used)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention classifies agents with recognized bioterrorism potential into three priority areas (A, B and C). Anthrax is classified as a Category A agent. Category A agents are those that:

  • �������� pose the greatest possible threat for a bad effect on public health
  • �������� may spread across a large area or need public awareness
  • �������� need a great deal of planning to protect the public�s health

In most cases, early treatment with antibiotics can cure cutaneous anthrax. Even if untreated, 80 percent of people who become infected with cutaneous anthrax do not die. Gastrointestinal anthrax is more serious because between one-fourth and more than half of cases lead to death. Inhalation anthrax is much more severe. In 2001, about half of the cases of inhalation anthrax ended in death.

The symptoms (warning signs) of anthrax are different depending on the type of the disease:

  • �������� Cutaneous: The first symptom is a small sore that develops into a blister. The blister then develops into a skin ulcer with a black area in the center. The sore, blister and ulcer do not hurt.
  • �������� Gastrointestinal: The first symptoms are nausea, loss of appetite, bloody diarrhea, and fever, followed by bad stomach pain.
  • �������� Inhalation: The first symptoms of inhalation anthrax are like cold or flu symptoms and can include a sore throat, mild fever and muscle aches. Later symptoms include cough, chest discomfort, shortness of breath, tiredness and muscle aches. (Caution: Do not assume that just because a person has cold or flu symptoms that they have inhalation anthrax.)

Symptoms can appear within 7 days of coming in contact with the bacterium for all three types of anthrax. For inhalation anthrax, symptoms can appear within a week or can take up to 42 days to appear.Antibiotics are used to treat all three types of anthrax. Early identification and treatment are important. Treatment is different for a person who is exposed to anthrax, but is not yet sick. Health-care providers will use antibiotics (such as ciprofloxacin, levofloxacin, doxycycline, or penicillin) combined with the anthrax vaccine to prevent anthrax infection. Treatment is usually a 60-day course of antibiotics. Success depends on the type of anthrax and how soon treatment begins.

How can I tell if a letter or package is suspicious?

According to the FBI, you should look for certain indicators. For example, check the postmark to see if it was mailed from a foreign country. Also check for no return address and for restrictive markings such as �personal� or �confidential.� Look for misspelled words or incorrect title. Suspect letters or packages may be rigid or bulky and have excessive tape or string around them. They may exhibit a strange odor.


  • �������������������� Possibly mailed from a foriegn address
  • �������������������� Mailed from an unknown address or sender
  • �������������������� No return address
  • �������������������� Restrictive markings
  • �������������������� Mispelled words
  • �������������������� Addressed to title only or incorrect title
  • �������������������� Badly typed or written
  • �������������������� Protruding Wires(this is how the electrical circuts are closed after sealing the package)
  • �������������������� Lopsided or uneven
  • �������������������� Rigid or bulky
  • �������������������� Strange odour(can come from the way an explosive has been manufactured being homemade)
  • �������������������� oily stains, discolourations or crystalization on wrapper(Oil can leach out of the explosive)
  • �������������������� Excesive tape or string

What should I do if I receive a suspicious letter or package?

  • �������� Do not shake or empty contents of any suspicious envelope or package; DO NOT try to clean up powders or fluids.
  • �������� Place the envelope or package in a plastic bag or some other type of container to prevent leakage of contents.
  • �������� If you do not have a container, then cover the envelope or package with anything (e.g. clothing, paper, trash can,etc.) available and do not remove this cover.
  • �������� Leave the room and close the door, or section off the area to prevent others from entering.
  • �������� Wash your hands with soap and water to prevent spreading any powder to your face or skin.

If you are at home, then report the incident to local police. If you are at work, report the incident to local police and notify your building security official or an available supervisor.

If possible, list all people who were in the room or area when this suspicious letter or package was recognized. Give this list to both the local police and local public health authorities for follow up investigation and advice.

Remove heavily contaminated clothing and place in a plastic bag that can be sealed. Give the bag to law enforcement personnel.

Shower with soap and water as soon as possible. Do not use bleach or disinfectant on your skin.

Dirty Bombs

People have expressed concern about dirty bombs and what they should do to protect themselves if a dirty bomb incident occurs. Because your health and safety are our highest priorities, the health experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have prepared the following list of frequently asked questions and answers about dirty bombs. A dirty bomb is a mix of explosives, such as dynamite, with radioactive powder or pellets. When the dynamite or other explosives are set off, the blast carries radioactive material into the surrounding area.

A dirty bomb is not the same as an atomic bomb, An atomic bomb, like those bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, involves the splitting of atoms and a huge release of energy that produces the atomic mushroom cloud. A dirty bomb works completely differently and cannot create an atomic blast. Instead, a dirty bomb uses dynamite or other explosives to scatter radioactive dust, smoke, or other material in order to cause radioactive contamination.

The main danger from a dirty bomb is from the explosion, which can cause serious injuries and property damage. The radioactive materials used in a dirty bomb would probably not create enough radiation exposure to cause immediate serious illness, except to those people who are very close to the blast site. However, the radioactive dust and smoke spread farther away could be dangerous to health if it is inhaled. Because people cannot see, smell, feel, or taste radiation, you should take immediate steps to protect yourself and your loved ones. These simple steps�recommended by doctors and radiation experts�will help protect you and your loved ones. The steps you should take depend on where you are located when the incident occurs: outside, inside, or in a vehicle.

If you are outside and close to the incident

  • �������� Cover your nose and mouth with a cloth to reduce the risk of breathing in radioactive dust or smoke.
  • �������� Don�t touch objects thrown off by an explosion�they might be radioactive.
  • �������� Quickly go into a building where the walls and windows have not been broken. This area will shield you from radiation that might be outside.
  • �������� Once you are inside, take off your outer layer of clothing and seal it in a plastic bag if available. Put the cloth you used to cover your mouth in the bag, too. Removing outer clothes may get rid of up to 90% of radioactive dust.
  • �������� Put the plastic bag where others will not touch it and keep it until authorities tell you what to do with it.
  • �������� Shower or wash with soap and water. Be sure to wash your hair. Washing will remove any remaining dust.
  • �������� Tune to the local radio or television news for more instructions.

If you are inside and close to the incident

  • �������� If the walls and windows of the building are not broken, stay in the building and do not leave.
  • �������� To keep radioactive dust or powder from getting inside, shut all windows, outside doors, and fireplace dampers. Turn off fans and heating and air-conditioning systems that bring in air from the outside. It is not necessary to put duct tape or plastic around doors or windows.
  • �������� If the walls and windows of the building are broken, go to an interior room and do not leave. If the building has been heavily damaged, quickly go into a building where the walls and windows have not been broken. If you must go outside, be sure to cover your nose and mouth with a cloth. Once you are inside, take off your outer layer of clothing and seal it in a plastic bag if available. Store the bag where others will not touch it.
  • �������� Shower or wash with soap and water, removing any remaining dust. Be sure to wash your hair.
  • �������� Tune to local radio or television news for more instructions.

If you are in a car when the incident happens

  • �������� Close the windows and turn off the air conditioner, heater, and vents.
  • �������� Cover your nose and mouth with a cloth to avoid breathing radioactive dust or smoke.
  • �������� If you are close to your home, office, or a public building, go there immediately and go inside quickly.
  • �������� If you cannot get to your home or another building safely, pull over to the side of the road and stop in the safest place possible. If it is a hot or sunny day, try to stop under a bridge or in a shady spot.
  • �������� Turn off the engine and listen to the radio for instructions.
  • �������� Stay in the car until you are told it is safe to get back on the road.

What should I do about my children and family?

  • �������� If your children or family are with you, stay together. Take the same actions to protect your whole family.
  • �������� If your children or family are in another home or building, they should stay there until you are told it is safe to travel.
  • �������� Schools have emergency plans and shelters. If your children are at school, they should stay there until it is safe to travel. Do not go to the school until public officials say it is safe to travel.

How do I protect my pets?

  • �������� If you have pets outside, bring them inside if it can be done safely.
  • �������� Wash your pets with soap and water to remove any radioactive dust.

Should I take potassium iodide?

  • �������� Potassium iodide, only protects a person’s thyroid gland from exposure to radioactive iodine. Iodide will not protect a person from other radioactive materials or protect other parts of the body from exposure to radiation.
  • �������� Since there is no way to know at the time of the explosion whether radioactive iodine was used in the explosive device, taking Iodide would probably not be beneficial. Also, Iodide can be dangerous to some people.

Will food and water supplies be safe?

  • �������� Food and water supplies most likely will remain safe. However, any unpackaged food or water that was out in the open and close to the incident may have radioactive dust on it. Therefore, do not consume water or food that was out in the open.
  • �������� The food inside of cans and other sealed containers will be safe to eat. Wash the outside of the container before opening it.
  • �������� Authorities will monitor food and water quality for safety and keep the public informed.

How do I know if I�ve been exposed to radiation or contaminated by radioactive materials?

  • �������� People cannot see, smell, feel, or taste radiation; so you may not know whether you have been exposed. Police or firefighters will quickly check for radiation by using special equipment to determine how much radiation is present and whether it poses any danger in your area.
  • �������� Low levels of radiation exposure (like those expected from a dirty bomb situation) do not cause any symptoms. Higher levels of radiation exposure may produce symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and swelling and redness of the skin.
  • �������� If you develop any of these symptoms, you should contact your doctor, hospital, or other sites recommended by authorities.

Further Information