Sometimes things just don’t feel right: the pieces don’t add up. What you do when faced with a situation like this will be based on and influenced by your knowledge and training.
Fire and EMS personnel, by nature of our job, have the potential to unintentionally discover weapons and explosives, or chemicals to make homemade explosives, while responding to dispatched calls.
In January 2014, Maryland first responders uncovered explosives, precursor materials and instructional manuals at a residence after responding to a health-and-welfare check for a potential suicidal subject. The individual presented with obvious burns to his hand, which he reported were from a welding accident. The on-scene EMS personnel assessed them to be more consistent to those of an accident involving improvised explosives.
They reported their suspicions to the appropriate authorities, which led to further investigation and subsequent discovery of material. Although there was no evidence of a clear, defined plot or target, the discovery of the explosive material at the residence prevented it from ever being used to harm people or property.
First responders’ assessment of a scene and a person’s injuries should correspond with the reported explanation of the mechanism of injury. First responder’ knowledge of the various mechanisms of injury can serve as a baseline so that when compared to on-scene statements and surroundings, inconsistencies can be noted and, if suspicious, reported.
The EMS providers’ suspicion of the patient’s story, along with the pattern of burns and suspicious behavior, led to reporting this event to authorities.
Fire and EMS personnel are uniquely positioned during every call to stumble upon nefarious acts. It’s imperative that all first responders are trained to recognize and report suspicious behaviors and indicators.