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Explosives are a popular choice among terrorists for causing disruption, casualties and destruction. Although chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) weapons may cause much more damage, explosives can still be the first choice because they are relatively easy to make, transport and use. The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) wants to provide state and local leaders with technology to plan for worst-case scenarios and mitigate the fallout of terrorist attacks.

S&T’s chemical security analysis center (CSAC) is developing a modeling tool called Homeland Explosive Consequence and Threat (HExCAT) that estimates the hazard and related human health consequences from thousands of plausible scenarios. The model is currently focused on single event assessments of special events such as parades. After validation and further development, it will be integrated into national- and regional-level risk analysis, according to

“HExCAT is a holistic risk assessment that informs decision-makers like governors and mayors how to invest in security, plan for operations and mitigation, and make important decisions for securing public spaces,” said Dr. David Reed, a chemist at CSAC. “If a terrorist were to detonate a bomb in a building vs. a bomb during a marathon vs. a car bomb near a stadium, what physical security and medical countermeasures will be most effective?”

The model maintains a library of 25 different types of military and homemade explosives. The tool can also model different scenarios based on a variety of indoor and outdoor public spaces. For general areas, such as city centers or parade routes, the model can simulate city layouts and buildings to model potential damage to representative buildings and determine medical response according to local capabilities.