Boston bombings: How surviving a bomb blast feels and what you can do to help survivors.

Imagine this:

Last thing that you remember is that you were standing with few of your friends in street, now you are laying on ground and looking around you and there is blood running next to your leg, there is something in your throat and it suffocates you, you are trying to remove it with your fingers but nothing comes out, you are trying to swallow it but it is of no help, you are trying to scream but nothing comes out of your mouth. And thing that scare you most is that you notice blood on your pants in groin region, and you think that all future fun is gone.

Your friend gets you on your feet and his mouth are moving but you can not hear sh!t. With his hands he is explaining you that shell exploded some 50 meters from you and your friends.

You are (hopefully only temporary) deaf from blast, you can not talk because blood in your throat because you bite your tongue when that thing exploded. “Luckily” blood running next to your leg is not yours, it is your friends , he is seriously wounded.

And that wet stuff running down your legs and on your pants is not your blood, you just lost your bladder control when detonation happened. It happened unconsciously not because of fear, you did not have enough time even to feel fear.

And then (thanks God) you pass out. Everything starts to hurt later.

This all happened long time ago, but I still remember everything like it is happened yesterday, or like it is happening everyday. I feel very sorry for those innocent killed people in Boston.

I feel sorry for wounded too. Even when they recover they will be wounded for the rest of their lives.

Few times people told me that my experiences are war experiences and they are not applicable to some future SHTF scenarios. Horrible event in Boston clearly shows that you do not need to be at war to have civil victims because of explosions.

I witnessed numerous explosions, blasts, detonations etc. And also I helped many bomb explosions victims, during war and later in emergency services. Unfortunately here carrying small bomb with you is not so unusual (even today). Its considered here weapon just like knife or gun and we have bombings in our area still every month.

So I have been with people immediately after the explosions and later too during the course of healing.

Also I helped lot of people to cope with psychological injuries that they sustained from similar events. And I suffered from that too.

Being at the scene of incident that involves many injured people will „hit“ you like a train, and even if you do not succumb to the widespread panic and start to help injured people it will require some kind of training and knowledge.

Never forget one thing: in any kind of incident your absolute priority is your safety. If you get hurt or killed you are not gonna help anybody. Always assess safety of scene.

Of course you are gonna help injured people in any way that you can, but in order to give as best help as you can you need to understand what actually happens with people with blast injuries.

Explosion and injuries from explosion can be divided into the three parts.

1 Phase

In first phase injuries are caused by the pressure wave of the blast. Injuries like pulmonary bleeding, pneumothorax, perforation of the gastrointestinal organs. The pressure just blasts your soft part inside.

Important thing too is that wave can cause severe damage or death without external signs of injury. Common injuries in first phase are also burns on the body area that are exposed to the side where explosion happened.

2 Phase

In this phase injuries occur from the flying pieces of glass, wood, stones metal etc. So you are gonna see lacerations, burns, fractures.

3 Phase

In this phase body of the victim is becoming missile and is thrown against object. So you can expect injuries at the point of impact. Usually trauma injuries and some bleeding, depends on where body lands on.

Now this three phases maybe look to you not important in terms of helping the victim, so you could say that injury is injury whatever phase it is.

It is not so simple, especially when specialised help is not so close, you need always to suspect the most serious injury until it is ruled out.

For example after some explosion you find man who looked perfectly OK, but actually he suffers some serious internal injuries from whom he can die in half hour without proper treatment. You can not help people with internal bleeding much but you can make them priority to get professional help. Transport them before transporting others and so on.

Some of the signs of internal bleeding can be:

  • Pain and swelling (pain and swelling in the leg can be caused by fracture of thigh bone for example)
  • Victim looses consciousness (internal bleeding in the brain)
  • Abdominal pain can be sign of damaged internal organs and bleeding
  • Disorientation of victim, dizziness and fainting

Most of these signs do not necessary need to be signs of internal bleeding, but point is for you as a man who want to help it is very important to always suspect worst case injury, let the professional medical services rule bad conditions out.

Don’t forget laws if they still exist

We are talking here mostly about time when there is no law, but still we need to mention (just in case) that you need to be familiar with laws in your area.

So in some countries you could end up in jail if you try to help victim and actually you do some harm (by mistake, or lack of knowledge…) in some other regions law is actually protecting you.

Level of knowledge

It is all up to you what kind of knowledge and skills you are gonna learn and use when SHTF. There is a system of course today so you can choose to go for first aid classes knowledge or EMT or you are gonna choose to learn what you think it is important to know.

Nobody says it is forbidden to you to go online and research how to stitch (sew) wounds or splint broken leg.

What to expect and how to act

Now we are coming to most important part of all this. You need to prepare yourself mentally to deal with injured , possibly dying people.

Some says that there are people who are born to stay cool in stressful environment, other say that training is key. I can say that after more that 20 years in medical field, including SHTF period that on some things you can not get used to and dying people is one of them.

What you can do with proper knowledge and training is to reduce the moments between shock and reaction, and to act how you are prepared (train).

Emotions and stress

Nature of emergencies are that they are stressful. Be ready to be overwhelmed by emotions and be ready to cope with stress.

Stress alone is huge topic, and you are gonna deal with some events even after 20 years, but important thing is to DEAL with it. Do not be alone with your problem.

Jay has background in psychology and has helped people with traumatic events here is his part on what everyone can do to help people after disaster, even without any training. I see these things also work every day in emergency situations at my job.

—–Jay about helping survivors in the acute aftermath of traumatic events—–

1. If you are safe, make sure other people and victims of the event feel safe as well. Tell them what happened and that they are safe now (and help is on the way if that’s the case). If necessary affirm the victim multiple times that they are safe now and the event is over. They just experienced something that was very hard to even imagine for them before and they need to come to terms with that. They will show all sorts of emotions, from anger to fear to depression and disbelief.

2. Make sure they are in a comfortable position. Do not make them move if they don’t want to, they might have injuries that you do not want to make worse. Let professionals take care of this unless you know what you are doing.

3. Talk to them in a calm voice and ask them neutral questions about what happened. What happened before the event and what lead to the event? Let them run through everything step by step. Ask specific questions and try not to get emotional in any way. This will calm them down and help them to understand what happened.

4. If you set off to find out more about friends or relatives of the victim who might have been also injured or killed, explain what you are going to do and that you will be back shortly. Give people the feeling you are there for them as good as possible.

5. Be honest about the information you share. If someone got killed say it in a compassionate way. Lying about this and then the victim finds out about it because the corpse of her relative gets carried away just means a deeper fall and loss of trust in you which can make the situation even worse (what else might be the wrong information? Am I really safe?….)

7. People after traumatic events sometimes act as if nothing happened. They might want to find transportation to get to where they planned on going to or call work to let them know they are late. This is normal because many people simply do not accept that what happened is part of their reality. Its a protection mechanism. If it doesn’t hurt the victim try to be supportive and borrow them your mobile phone or help them in any other way.

In general people can handle natural disasters best, while man-made disasters or violence is the worst because the fundamental trust in people is destroyed.


Here is some personal advice from me.

I experienced many explosions, I mean very close explosions, not sure how many but it was way of living for year.. From hand grenades, tear gas grenades, mortars, tanks, howitzer, improvised bombs…

But all comes down to same. Jump down and pray to God, later you stand up, clear debris from hair and clothes, throw up maybe from smell and blast that shocked your organs and go on. If you survived, and without injuries. Only thing that changed over the time that we all (more or less) became numb to all of that, so we just care for everything less and less.

I describe how I transition from normal young man to this numb creature that just wants to survive in interviews in my survival course. I bleed from ears several times after the explosions. I hear poorly on my right ear for the rest of my life.

Events like mass killings, bombings and similar will change you completely, and you are not gonna be same anymore. Event alone is traumatic with injured people, screams, blood and all that, and there is few basic rules in helping the victims and helping yourself to cope with everything.


Sometimes listening to victim is gonna be only thing that you gonna be able to do. You can not „treat“ victim with listening only, but trust me to man who is in pain, great fear and uncertainty is he going to survive to have someone beside him makes a great difference. Maybe you are gonna find yourself in situation that man is dying, man who is total stranger to you, but he is gonna have only you for comfort.

Anger reactions

Because fear and shock, you can expect all kind of reactions from injured people, and very often that reaction gonna be angry one. Just be tolerant, that anger is not actually directed towards you.

Help yourself

After being involved with dealing to the victims of some catastrophic event you can also experience excess stress. It can be triggered by simple traumatic event or many of them. For someone it can be caused by watching a car accident for example.

Some of the symptoms of stress are: problems with concetration, irritability, anxiety, loss of sexual interest, nightmares etc.

Dealing with stress (this has worked for me):

  • Change your food habits. Avoid fatty foods, nicotine and alcohol
  • Exercise.
  • Relax. Try meditation or check what relaxing techniques are good for you
  • Spend more time with your family and friends, talk to them and just go and include them in your stress problem solving.

This is what Jay and me think about this. The bomber from Boston is not only one who benefits from people being afraid. People who are scared are easier to control. Just dont let the bomber be a prepper…

Please share in comments what you think about Boston bombing and maybe also personal tips how to deal with traumatic events.

30 responses to “Boston bombings: How surviving a bomb blast feels and what you can do to help survivors.”

  1. Tommy says:

    Some really good photos (incriminating) from the Boston Marathon on Monday. Shows several guys with backpacks, then later NO BACKPACKS.

  2. david manger says:

    speechless for now!

  3. Michael says:

    As usual, cowards attacking the innocent

    Having been around a number of explosions in training situations, I can say that uninjured, everyone will react differently.
    From soiling themselves, to wearing the buttons off their shirt trying tp dig a hole in the concrete with them, to freezing up, there is no predicting until it happens.

  4. j.r. guerra in s. tx. says:

    I remember years ago, coming across a car accident which had just occurred. A young woman was broad sided and she partially came through the driver’s side window. She wasn’t cut, but was bleeding from her mouth. It was the look in her eyes that struck me. Dead, vacant, unfocused expression – she was definitely in shock.

    I was 18 years old and had no idea what to do. Luckily a police officer and ambulance arrived shortly. I stuck around in case of an questions (there wasn’t) and I left.

    The rest of the day, I was in a bit of a daze. First (and last) that happened to me. Suddenly became very conscious of how Life can change in an instant. I’ve tried to stay vigilant ever since.

    • john says:

      I saw a pedestrian get hit by a car once. The woman’s left temple struck the drivers side “A pillar”(I believe is the technical term for the metal post between the windshield and the door window). I was right there within spitting distance and looked right into her eyes as her head struck the A pillar. I saw the lights go out in her eyes. I saw her gas station jumbo plastic soda drink cup hit the pavement. I saw her body bounce off the car and go flying without her shoes on her feet. I saw it all in slow motion. I knew she was dead before she hit the pavement.

      I saw another woman fall out of a moving pickup and tumble down the road. I saw the driver(her husband) run screaming back to her after he got the truck stopped. I saw him turn into a wild animal and try to attack cars that were coming towards her. I saw him try to attack the cops that showed up, and then the rescue squad as well. We was no longer human. He was like a wolf defending his injured mate…snarling and shrieking. The cops finally restrained him but is took 4 cops because he was huge. The woman died in the ambulance ride to the hospital.

      I’ve seen so many such accidents I can’t recount them all here. Most of them motorcycle accidents.

  5. john says:

    The bombing disgusts me. But something else that disgusts me is the left leaning talking heads who are so quick to speculate that this is the work of right wingers who hate the current president. That is just pure hate speech. The idiots saying these things need to stop and think about what the Boston marathon is.

    The Boston marathon the worlds oldest marathon still held every year. It is the most famous foot race on the planet. It is the running version of the tour de france(bicycle race) or the isle of man TT(motorcycle race).

    The people who targeted this race did their homework and chose this race precisely because it is a world famous race. They are obviously international terrorists. An american citizen right wing extremist who is angry at his own government would target his own government. NOT A FOOT RACE!

    Even that lunatic who shot Gabriel Giffords would not choose a target such as the Boston marathon. Even in his mentally impaired state he still picked out a government target. Jared Lee Loughner turned out to be a left wing extremist by the way. Not that it matters much. The main point is that even someone that much mentally impaired doesn’t do something like bomb a marathon.

    • R BO says:

      You make some very valid points. This was not the work of a mental defective. There will most likely be a bunch more of this.

      • john says:

        Agreed. there will be more. Those other two races I mentioned should maybe be on alert. However, the methods of these terrorists do not show a specific long term pattern. They don’t go for targets that are similar. Once they succeed in hitting one type of target, they move on to a different type of target.

  6. TimeHasCome says:

    Selco’s course has been a huge help to me . I’ve read a lot of books on preparedness but nothing compares to Selco’s first hand experience . I just downloaded a Kindle book on preparedness and what a load of crap ( Survive and Thrive after the collapse by C . Jeff Oakes. Please skip Mr Oakes so called book.
    Selco is very gritty in his course and Jay manages to get the information out of him . Not for the faint of heart but if want to know what our future will be like , take the course.

  7. Oscar says:

    I’ve been trained in First Aid with some supplementary Hostile Environment and Mountain first aid training. I’ve never, thank God, seen a bomb attack or had to treat people after an explosion or major fire. I always thought I’d be ready and would react well.

    Not really.

    I was the first responder when a couple came off their motorbike at 70mph on the motorway. Their bike was too small for their combined weight, and they were dressed in t-shirts and shorts. His right leg looked as if someone had got hold of each end and wrung it out like you’d wring out a towel.

    I learned three lessons that day.

    1) My kit was inadequate and unsuited for a serious accident scene. I’ve improved it since.

    2) You don’t “rise to the occasion”, you sink to the bare minimum. I missed a lot of things and could have done a lot better. I did however reassure casualties and bystanders and was able to give a good report to the emergency services when they turned up. You need to get training, then revise, revise, revise.

    3) You have to debreif. I have a good neighbour, I went and talked to her for an hour about it, she very wisely just nodded her head and let me speak.

    Stay safe, everyone.

    • Selco says:

      Making good first aid kit is quite job in terms of thinking what you gonna put inside, and most of the small first aid kits that you can buy in store are inadequate. As you said after you see some real stuff you are realize that you need to improve it.
      There is no perfect first aid kit that you can take with you everywhere, but you can work to make it pretty good for your (possible) emergency scenarios.

      Shock, lack of training and lack of knowledge can do “sink to minimum” and it is nothing strange. You can have training and knowledge and shock still can paralyze you. It is hard.

      • Steve says:

        I did the best I could to lay in a supply of medical supplies. Then I had a professional EMT go through all of the supplies to see what else was needed. He made a couple of suggestions including the really sharp scissors you see the ER people use to cut away clothes (on the TV), and a soft cast (he gave me one of his). I knew I’d done well when he offered so few suggestions for additional items, and when he said, “I need to put together something like this for my family.” Just last night my wife opened the eye wash and irrigated/flushed out some foreign matter like sand from under her eyelid that was causing a problem. I didn’t even know what eye wash was until I saw it on one of the lists of suggested medical supplies I looked at before buying our stuff. As for suturing, there is a veterinary college nearby that offers a one week short course on suturing, with hands on experience. I plan on taking that. It’ll apply, we learn on animals what we then apply to humans, and then reapply to animals.

        • Another Comment says:

          I do not know why everyone with limited medical knowledge immediately leaps to sutures and suturing as part of their med kids. There is virtually NO WAY I would suture anyone in austere conditions.

          Most sutures are cosmetic (why you would care about that if there’s a problem?) The ones that are not cosmetic, I guarantee there is no way you can do them after a vet class. All run a very high risk of sewing in infection. If antibiotics are limited or ineffective with many infections…that is not what you want. Infections can and will kill you.

          Stop the bleeding, pack the wound open, and let a professional take care of it later. A doctor can do a secondary wound closure days later. Or a plastic surgeon can revise it years later.

  8. Selco, you have a natural gift for just describing horrific events and staying sane and making it seem like surviving is possible. Your entries here are so brief, just skimming the surface. Your humanity comes through loud & clear which always seems to leaven the horror. Have you considered doing an ebook? Just sit with a tape recorder and talk; get a series of photos and just describe what’s happening in each, even that would be a fascinating ebook. Do it not out of ambition but of service, because your words truly help those who receive them. I’ve read many post-conflict reports & memoirs over the years, and none of them captures the horror with the sweetness of being alive, as you do. You could write multiple ‘band of brothers’ type books that would resonate for years to come … The West needs a voice like yours. Have a great day!

  9. Tim says:

    “So in some countries you could end up in jail if you try to help victim and actually you do some harm (by mistake, or lack of knowledge…) in some other regions law is actually protecting you.”

    In the USA you are screwed either way. Help someone, get sued. Dont help someone Get Sued. not jail, but more like you live on the streets with no money for the rest of your life because good deeds must be punished here.

    I have training in first responder and First aid and let it lapse because it is dangerous to you legally here to have any certifications in those. Because if you do you are EXPECTED To help legally, but you have no protections so if you help someone in a bomb blast and they die, you get blamed for their death and the family now owns everything you own.

    With certifications that have lapsed, I am no longer legally required to help. Many of us will help and then leave the scene as soon as possible to avoid anyone getting our name or being able to describe us. That way we cant get punished for doing a good deed.

    • Steve says:

      It may depend on the individual state, but in my First Aid and CPR training I have been assured that the Good Samaritan Law protects me. I will be sure to not get in over my head, or beyond my training.

      THANKS TO THE EFFIN LAWYERS we have to be careful about even helping.

  10. Larry says:

    In my earlier years, I was involved in the training and care of race horses, (and other large animals). Often (Too often) they are not able to cope with, or understand our mechanized existance. They try to stay aloof, and`when an “accident” happens, or they fail to comprehend the events around them, they frequently end up hurting themselves, or others who are trying to help them. I often found myself giving emergency first aid, treating for shock (yes, animals go into shock, just as we do) wrapping and bandaging, or irrigating serious wounds. In one incident, a pregnant mare (female horse) that was carrying a very valuable foal (Baby) was running across the field, looking back at her stablemates, and she ran into the wood fence. She impaled herself on the broken wood, with severe lacerations in the area around her nipples. The vets were called, and other than cleaning the wounds there wasn’t much they could do. I spent many hours each day, draining and irrigating the deep lacerations, using an iodine solution, and she delivered a fine, healthy foal, and was able to nurse him sucessfully.
    I am fortunate in that I am able to stay calm, even detached, in an emergency, and after accessing the situation, lend whatever help I can, or stay out of the way while others do what they can. I have suffered some serious wounds myself, over the years, and was able to remain calm and give others the information they needed, to help me.

  11. Rum says:

    I was held up once by some yooths with a 9mm Ruger who explained that they wanted money from me. Since I was carrying just a few dollars I fully expected them to end the interview with a couple of shots to my head.
    What you learn, in moments like that, is there are places your brain can go to that you never knew existed. Vision is altered to a tunnel. Time seems to slow down. And stuff happens that is too personal to describe. If you are lucky, your altered brain keeps looking for the right move to make. I threw my car keys in one direction, told them they could have it, and dived the other way thru some bushes. Since they did not shoot me, I guess I was lucky. And I was lucky, in a sense. But your nervous system gets re-wired. You do not go back. Nowadays I carry, I train regularly, I keep my eyes open, and I will shoot first if I sense that you are-dead-now vibe coming on.

    • Selco says:

      Yea, events like that opens your eyes and after that you just thinking on some other ways and asses the risks that you did not even know are existing before.

    • Tim says:

      This: a Thousand times this. Most people need to really inspect their flight response in a stress situation. I dont care how much you “prep” you can not prepare for any of this.

      I have been told by friends that have been in combat that ,” you cant learn it without being there” and I believe them.

  12. Xabier says:

    I am going to tell the extreme Left-wing people I know in Spain, who march in support of ETA terrorist prisoners and their ‘rights’ – terrorists who have done this kind of thing, or made speeches in favour of it – to look at this piece by Selco, look at the reality of what a bombing really is, its barbarism.

    I have even heard some of them, walking through a Basque town, point to places in the street and recall with joy how a bomb went off there (maybe 20, 30 years ago.) With joy, with delight!

    It’s hard to express how they sicken me: but people can and do think like this when blinded by personal vanity and ideological hatred. It’s embedded in the culture. It will just go on and on.

    Thank you Selco (and Jay) for another valuable piece.

  13. Simple says:

    Can we not conclude that this was another false flag event aimed at eroding our civil liberties in order for more protection? Can we not conclude that there will continue to be more events like this until we have a police state? Critical thinking…sheesh!

    On a side note…where is the outcry from the American (revived Roman empire) people on the senseless slaughter of innocent civilians around the globe? Do you not realize that 1 million Iraqi civilians were starved to death? How about the 70,000 civilians in Syria that are dead and the millions that are displaced? This is just the tip of the iceberg…and we cry out for justice about the Boston bombing? Shame on us for our arrogance. Just who do we think we are? We feel as if we are somehow superior. Are we superior? WE ARE NOT!

    If you sup with the devil you better have a long spoon. We WILL reap what we have sown. You can be sure of that! Now you plan for vengeance from a just God. THAT is what YOU prepare for.

  14. Liz Rambo says:

    Selco thanks for you articals we need more from you every thing you got friend you are doing a great job.

  15. Cache Valley Prepper says:

    Excellent Selco. One good reason to join CERT or the Red Cross (at least in my state) is that you will get some training and be covered by the Good Samaritan Law if you provide reasonable aid to an injured person and they later try to sue you. Plus it will help you get some repetitious training because you will perform like you trained. It is important to do a head to toe assesment of the person in a mass casualty situation before prioritizing them for transport. I have quite a bit of experience with explosions and victims will almost always end up with tinnitus or ringing in the ears … in my case permanently. In my case it was from being too close to breaching charges, even with double hearing protection. I’ve also seen people temporarily incapacitated just by the overpressure of a blast without getting hit by any shrapnel. Depending on the amount of overpressure it can even be lethal. The military spec for a stun munition is device that will produce 10 psi of overpressure at 10 feet away. It usually stuns you pretty good, putting you out of fight and disorienting you for at least a few seconds.

    • Selco says:

      Thanks. It make sense to have at least some level of medical training. Sometimes simple pressure on major bleeding until more professional help is available can mean difference between life and death. I understand that laws can be different when it comes to this, but when SHTF everything counts.

  16. DayStar says:

    Selco, did you ever notice that very religious were more able to cope with the traumatic situations or did they do worse?



    • Selco says:

      People with deep religious beliefs seems to find peace after some events better then others.Also i have seen people with particular life philosophy doing better in hard times, so it does not necessary need to be about religion. It is about accepting.

  17. Tam says:

    I experienced the Manchester 1996 IRA bombing as was at the front cordon, within a spilt second? I felt the hot air blast, the suck back and the loud pops from the windows shattering out. I did turn and run but did help a few people who had tripped over.

    I don’t remember much about the walk/run back to my home. I remember seeing scared people and they had a horrible glazed look which never ever want to see again. I remember seeing a lady who was just repeating “Be ok and don’t be dead, be ok and don’t be dead” over and over.

    I remember that I threw up around the corner of a McDonalds in Cheetham Hill as had bought a Big Mac and a Happy Meal. I don’t remember buying it but must have as had the box and toy on my living room table.

    I tried to have a bath but as I think was in extreme shock? I don’t remember most of that day, from walking home to running the bath. I was covered in dust and glass and threw out my clothes and my bag. I was covered in glass and it kept falling out of my hair as did the dust. I don’t know how long I was sitting by the bath/loo for except the light had changed from afternoon light to evening one. I just sat and felt numb. Just rocking and telling myself it was ok. Everything is ok.

    When I eventually had a bath/wash? The water was a horrible yucky grey colour with huge chunks of dust in it.

    Ive a slim thin 1inch scar on my forehead from that day and the glass shattering. Ive always made up a story when people have asked me about it as its none of their business and couldn’t talk about it.

    I do think am lucky that I only have that one inch scar and that no one died that day. I am sooo glad no one died.

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