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J Trauma. 2005 Dec;59(6):1436-44.

The United States twenty-year experience with bombing incidents: implications for terrorism preparedness and medical response.

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  • 1Institute for International Emergency Medicine and Health, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA.



Terrorist bombings remain a significant threat in the United States. However, minimal longitudinal data exists regarding the medical and public health impact because of bombings.


We conducted a retrospective analysis of the number of incidents, injuries, and deaths because of explosive, incendiary, premature, and attempted bombings from January 1983 to December 2002. Morbidity and mortality by motives, target locations, and materials used were evaluated.


In the United States, 36,110 bombing incidents, 5,931 injuries, and 699 deaths were reported. There were 21,237 (58.8%) explosive bombings, 6,185 (17.1%) incendiary bombings, 1,107 (3.1%) premature bombings, and 7,581 (21.0%) attempted bombings. For explosive bombings with known motives, 72.9% of injuries and 73.8% of deaths were because of homicide. For incendiary bombings with known motives, 68.2% of injuries were because of extortion and revenge, and 53.5% of deaths were due to homicide. Private residences accounted for 29.0% of incidents, 31.5% of injuries, and 55.5% of deaths. Government installations accounted for 4.4% of incidents but were the site of 12.7% of injuries and 25.5% of deaths. In bombings with known materials, nitrate-based fertilizers accounted for 36.2% of injuries and 30.4% of deaths, and smokeless powder and black powder accounted for 33.2% of injuries and 27.1% of deaths.


Illegal bombings and related injuries commonly occur in the United States. Because of the easy availability of bombing materials, government agencies and healthcare providers should prepare for potential mass-casualty bombings.

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