Doctors, architects learn lessons from Oklahoma City bombing
August 6, 1996
Web posted at: 11:55 p.m. EDT
From Correspondent Andrew Holtz
(CNN) -- They seem to be such random acts of terror, but to
medical investigators, bombings inflict consistent patterns
of injury and death that offer clues to help save lives.
Health officials investigating the April 19, 1995, bombing of
the Alfred P. Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City
describe in the Journal of the American Medical Association
what they learned, after developing a map of where people
died and were injured.
The results could be used to improve building designs to
better protect people in the case of terrorist bombings and
to help rescuers
find victims more quickly amid debris.
There were 168 people killed in the Oklahoma City bombing,
several of whom were outside
the building. But of the nearly 600 people seriously injured,
only four had life-threatening internal injuries. Another 20
people suffered dangerous cuts, severe head injuries or
burns. Most frequently, people were cut by flying glass.
"The majority of people that were seen in the hospitals had
very minor injuries -- most of them were lacerations,
abrasions and contusions," said Sheryll Shariat, an
epidemiologist with the Oklahoma State Department of Health.
That tells hospitals to prepare for lots of cuts and bruises,
not an overwhelming flood of critical trauma patients, she
Guide for architects
There were 361 people in the building at the time of the
blast. The Oklahoma City researchers pinpointed the location
of everyone who was in and around the building, and the
results offer clues to where search-and-rescue teams were
most likely to find possible survivors.
The map shows it was the building collapse rather than the
blast that cost many lives. In some cases, just a few inches
made a difference between someone living or dying.
One surprising finding was that people on higher floors were
at higher risk of death than those on lower floors, Shariat
The National Research Council has issued a report on what can
be done to design buildings to be more bomb-resistant.
However, there's an aesthetic tradeoff to the added
protection, said the council's Richard Little. (136K AIFF or WAV sound)
Safer buildings would have thicker walls, stronger structural
supports and less glass, which can shatter and cause serious
injuries, he said.
Researchers hope to create a computer simulation so disaster
planners can predict the effects of bombings with brutal
"Many things in Oklahoma City will become a model for the
nation as the nation does prepare itself for terrorist
attacks," Shariat said.
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