Boston Marathon Bombings Raises New Concerns of "Dirty Bombs"

In the hours and days that followed the Boston Marathon bombings, the FBI and other law enforcement agencies asked members of the public to contact them with any photos or videos taken during the event that could have held clues to the identities of the people who had placed the bombs. Several photographs taken by an anonymous photographer showed men dressed in dark blue jackets and tan pants, moving throughout the bombing site. Some of these men were in the photographs were carrying large black backpacks. The photographs went viral throughout the internet and many people thought these were the suspects. It turns out, however, that these men were actually members of a National Guard Civil Support Team (CST), pre-scheduled to be at the event.  

CST officers at Boston Marathon Photos of what many people thought were pictures of the suspects of the Boston Marathon bombing.


CSTs are the National Guard’s full-time response force for emergencies or terrorist events involving weapons of mass destruction, toxic chemicals, or natural disasters. CSTs are routinely pre-staged at large public events, like the Boston Marathon, to help reduce the risks and assist civilian authorities. There is a very real threat of terrorists adding chemical, biological or nuclear materials in their improvised explosive devices (IED) – referred to as a “dirty bomb”.

One photograph shows a CST holding a radiation monitoring device in the immediate aftermath of the bombing. During a hearing of the House Homeland Security Committee's Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence which took place a week after the bombing, Subcommittee chairman Rep. Peter King (R-NY) asked Richard Daddario, the NYPD's Deputy Commissioner for Counterterrorism to explain a possible scenario had the Boston bombing suspects used dirty bombs in their terrorist acts.  Daddario replied, “If a dirty bomb were to go off in Boston, there would be a large area that would be contaminated for a substantial period of would shut down all economic activity in that area, chase residents out of the area for substantial periods of time until there could be a cleanup, [and] there would be mass panic.”

CST officer measuring radiation A CST holding a radiation monitoring device at bombing site.

Heightened concerns over the possibility of more acts of domestic terrorism only re-enforce how critical it is that emergency responders and public safety officials are fully trained on how to effectively handle an attack. Emergency Film Group’s Terrorism: Explosive & Incendiary Weapons and Terrorism: Biological Weapons DVD training films both provide the essential training in the event a terrorism crisis occurs.

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Boston Marathon Bombing: Act of Terrorism

The excitement and anticipation radiating at the Boston Marathon finish line was shattered by two powerful bomb explosions that were detonated within seconds of each other. The blasts killed three people, including an 8 year-old boy, and have left more than 150 people injured, many of the victims suffering from traumatic amputations and head trauma.

The first blast occurred at 2:50 p.m., approximately two hours after the first runners had crossed the finish line. The second explosion went off twelve seconds later and approximately 100 yards away from the first. The timing of the blasts, in the fourth hour of the race, is typically when the finish line is at its most crowded, with many of the competing recreational runners finishing the race, to the cheers of family and friends who gather in that area to greet them.

Witnesses recounted panic and confusion after the first explosion went off. But within moments, emergency responders, including police officers and firefighters, began tearing down temporary metal fencing to get to the victims, as broken glass from building windows showered onto the street. The medical tent set up for exhausted and dehydrated runners quickly became a triage tent for the dozens of critically injured victims.

The FBI is heading the investigation, along with the Massachusetts State Police, and agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. As of this posting, no one had claimed responsibility for the bombings. However, news media is reporting that a Saudi national, in the country on a student visa, is being questioned. The man was observed running away from the area after the blasts and was tackled by a bystander. The man is currently hospitalized with burn injuries. FBI and Homeland Security agents searched the man’s apartment, located just outside of Boston, in the suburb of Revere. Agents removed brown papers bags, trash bags and a duffel bag, as well as other items.

The AP is quoting a law enforcement official source who said that the bombs were made by putting explosives in a metal pressure cooker, also filled with anti-personnel packing, including BB’s, ball bearings and nails. Several doctors involved with treating victims of the bombings reported that many of the injured had multiple pieces of shrapnel embedded into their bodies.

The White House said the bombings are being treated as an act of terrorism. In a statement, President Obama said, “We still don't know who did this or why. Make no mistake: We will get to the bottom of this.”


Video of the Boston Marathon bomb explosions provided by the Boston Globe.


Boston Marathon bombing Rescue workers and victims shortly after bombs exploded at Boston Marathon.


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Bottle Bombs: Teenage Prank that Can Turn Tragic

Over the past several years, many people have received forwarded emails from friends, warning about incidents of bottle bombs left in people’s yards that explode when the bottles are picked up. The bombs are made from plastic soda bottles and filled with liquid. Many unsuspecting victims, thinking the bottle is just trash, pick it up. That movement causes the bomb to explode. What starts out as a teen-age prank can end with an explosion severe enough to cause second- or third-degree burns, loss of limbs, blindness or loss of hearing.

There are hundreds of videos on the internet that give instructions on how to make a bottle bomb, using every day household products – Drano, baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, vinegar, tin foil and dry ice – and more. After placing the selected ingredients in a 2-liter plastic soda bottle, a gas begins to appear. The gas then explodes through the bottles weakest area, typically the neck of the bottle. The bigger the bottle means the bigger the explosion.

Recently, two bottle bombs exploded at Ferris High School, in Spokane WA. The first bomb exploded shortly after 8:30 a.m. in a restroom in one of the buildings of the school. A custodian received skin irritation while cleaning up the chemicals and some students had respiratory problems from breathing the fumes. Students were evacuated from that building. Once the area was cleaned, students were allowed back in.

At 11:15 a.m., another bomb exploded, this time in the school commons eating area. With a second bomb detonating, the decision was made to evacuate the entire campus of the school. Police officers and firefighters swept through the school, checking every classroom and hallway for other devices. A teen suspect was identified and confessed to the incident.

Although bottle bomb incidents are isolated, it’s important for people to be aware of the potential dangers. Emergency Film Group offers Sulfuric Acid and Hydrochloric Acid a safety training program about the hazards of acids and safe response to incidents. It is part of our HazChem Series. The film is available in DVD and online as both an online course and for Video on Demand. To learn more, read here. .  .



Bottle bomb explosions Bottle bomb explosions can be severe enough to cause second- or third-degree burns, loss of limbs, blindness or loss of hearing.


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FBI Arrests Courthouse Bomb Threat Suspect

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), for the Northern District of Ohio, has announced the arrest of a suspect in the recent series of bomb threats called into courthouses in several states. The threats began in November and continued through to December 2012. Threats were received in courthouses and other federal buildings in Nebraska, Washington, Oregon, Tennessee, and Mississippi. (See Emergency Film Group’s report about the bomb threats here: Courthouse Bomb Threats Plague Several States.)

Lonny Lee Bristow, 38, of Mansfield, Ohio, has been charged with one count of Title 18, U.S.C. 844(e), which states: through the use of the mail, telephone, and other instrument of interstate or foreign commerce or in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce willfully made a threat and maliciously conveyed false information knowing the same to be false concerning an attempt or alleged attempt to damage or destroy any building by means of an explosive.

Lonny Lee Bristow Suspect Lonny Lee Bristow

Details of the FBI’s investigation revealed that several pre-paid calling cards purchased by Bristow at a Walmart Supercenter in Upper Sandusky, Ohio were linked to the bomb threats. During a search of Bristow’s residence, FBI agents seized computers, digital storage devices, other electronic equipment, documents, bank cards, weapons and ammunition.

In his initial appearance in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, Bristow waived his right to a detention hearing and preliminary hearing, meaning he will be held without bond until his case is reviewed by a federal grand jury, according to court documents.

“Lonny Bristow induced panic in hundreds of people across several states who were simply trying to do their work,” said Steven M. Dettelbach, Special Agent in Charge of the Cleveland Division of the FBI. “The FBI will continue efforts to aggressively pursue charges against anyone, such as Mr. Bristow, who chooses to make reckless and malicious bomb threats.”

Emergency Film Group offers  Bomb Threat, a DVD-based training package  which teaches the management of bomb threat reports in order to minimize the disruption of activities, the elements of a bomb incident plan, carrying out  searches and evacuations, and working with responding law enforcement.  To learn more, read here.



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Courthouse Bomb Threats Plague Several States

There has been a recent rash of multiple courthouse bomb threats in several states over the past few months.  The incidents appear to follow the same pattern – the calls, usually made by a male caller, begin coming into the courthouses, in succession, often by county alphabetical order. The caller claims that there is an explosive device located in the courthouse and then hangs up. Searches of the building fail to yield any devices.

The first incident occurred in Nebraska on November 2nd, where nine county courthouses received threats. The calls began at 11:02 a.m. and ended at 11:36 a.m. In each case, a male caller indicated there was an explosive device in the courthouse and the devices would begin going off in 17 minutes. Each of the courthouses was evacuated by local authorities, and no credible threats were found.

Eight courthouses in the state of Washington received similar calls on November 15th.  A male caller began calling courthouses late in the afternoon, claiming that there were multiple explosive devices in the building. All eight courthouses receiving threats were evacuated and no devices were found.

Oregon was the next state targeted and this time the caller tripled the number of threats called in. On November 19th, 28 courthouses and a state office building received the same threatening calls, beginning at 2:30 p.m. and continuing for approximately an hour. As with Nebraska and Washington, no devices were found after evacuations and searches.

Thirty Tennessee courthouses and other government buildings were targeted on November 27th. The bomb threats were made against nine locations in western state counties — including the Memphis federal building — seven in middle Tennessee and 14 in eastern Tennessee. The state of Mississippi received 29 bomb threats on December 17th, including the Mississippi Supreme Court among those needing to be evacuated.

Authorities continue to investigate whether these incidents are connected. Although bomb threats may seem annoying, they must be handled properly to protect the safety of the people within the threatened facility. Emergency Film Group offers  Bomb Threat, a DVD-based training package  which teaches how to manage reports of bomb threats to minimize the disruption of activities, the elements of a bomb incident plan, carrying out  searches and evacuations, and working with responding law enforcement.  To learn more, read here.



Thirty Tennessee courthouses received bomb threats

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