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mrabsolutefan
05-06-2014, 07:25 PM
I wanna blow up a hospital. :D

Just kidding. It is actually the antagonist of my novel who plans to do it. He doesn't have a lot of experience in the 'incendiary department'. Anyway, what kind of inflammable/combustible materials are generally found in a, say, seedy, sub-urban public hospital?

jerrimander
05-06-2014, 07:35 PM
I wanna blow up a hospital. :D

Just kidding. It is actually the antagonist of my novel who plans to do it. He doesn't have a lot of experience in the 'incendiary department'. Anyway, what kind of inflammable/combustible materials are generally found in a, say, seedy, sub-urban public hospital?

Gosh, how often has that thought crossed my mind?

Of the top of my head, and I'm no expert, don't hospitals, even seedy ones, have a surplus of tanks of highly explosive O2 tanks? The kind you can't have a lit cigarette near?

Cath
05-06-2014, 07:36 PM
How big is this hospital, and in what country? Does he need to destroy one department or the whole building? Does he intend to harm people or just property (i.e. are we looking at a bomb projecting shrapnel, which requires premeditation, or a simple 'make use of the available materials' bomb?)

There are plenty of combustible materials to be found in even a basic medical facility - not least oxygen - but the size of the explosion and damage caused is going to depend on what, where, and how much damage you want to cause.

mrabsolutefan
05-06-2014, 07:51 PM
How big is this hospital, and in what country? Does he need to destroy one department or the whole building? Does he intend to harm people or just property (i.e. are we looking at a bomb projecting shrapnel, which requires premeditation, or a simple 'make use of the available materials' bomb?)

There are plenty of combustible materials to be found in even a basic medical facility - not least oxygen - but the size of the explosion and damage caused is going to depend on what, where, and how much damage you want to cause.

He wants to blow up the entire building. Country: umm, let us say a third world country. The hospital is not too big: say, only 4-5 stories high. I am aware of o2 cylinders, but was looking for more interesting/weird materials, things that would surprise the reader.:D

He acts on instinct, doesn't think a lot, so he would settle for the "make use of the available materials' bomb?" option. :D

Cath
05-06-2014, 08:03 PM
4-5 stories is still pretty big. He's going to need to target structural elements on the ground floor to do real damage. Think about having the explosions happen in small spaces for maximum impact.

Gasses stored under compression might work - you could investigate anesthetics for explosive potential.

mrabsolutefan
05-06-2014, 08:09 PM
4-5 stories is still pretty big. He's going to need to target structural elements on the ground floor to do real damage. Think about having the explosions happen in small spaces for maximum impact.

Great. So apart from o2 tanks, what kind of other inflammable materials could be targeted? Let's say this hospital doesn't even have the basic fire safety precautions in place, except maybe the ubiquitous fire extinguisher cylinder lol. ;)

Cath
05-06-2014, 08:12 PM
Heh, I edited my previous post as you posted. Check out common anesthetics that might be stored under compression. Also alcohols.

Does the hospital have a mortuary where postmortems are performed? That could be a great source for chemicals.

melindamusil
05-06-2014, 10:19 PM
Another "off the top of my head" response... hospitals will have lots of cleaning supplies, and I'm certain some of those will be flammable. (I'd have to google it to figure out which ones.) Plus they'd have access to chemicals in higher concentrations than your average household cleaners.

mrabsolutefan
05-06-2014, 10:25 PM
Another "off the top of my head" response... hospitals will have lots of cleaning supplies, and I'm certain some of those will be flammable. (I'd have to google it to figure out which ones.) Plus they'd have access to chemicals in higher concentrations than your average household cleaners.

Thanks. My head is buzzing with ideas now. ;)

mrabsolutefan
05-06-2014, 10:26 PM
Gosh, how often has that thought crossed my mind?

You must have your reasons, too. :tongue

wendymarlowe
05-06-2014, 10:28 PM
I'm . . . highly skeptical that anyone, even a trained demolitions expert or an experienced chemist, could manage to completely destroy a 5-story hospital using only materials they found on hand and without any prior surveillance/planning. I mean, you could probably write in something your antagonist just *happens* to find, but as a reader I'd be rolling my eyes pretty hard at that point.

Cath
05-06-2014, 10:34 PM
It would be more valuable to identify how it could work, if it could work, rather than comment on the believability of the plot point. Facts speak more clearly to whether or not this could be done.

skylark
05-06-2014, 10:40 PM
Could your character arrange for a gas leak followed by a suitable source of sparks? They tend to be extremely destructive in the "reduce entire building to a pile of rubble" sense and wouldn't rely on particular supplies.

juniper
05-06-2014, 10:52 PM
Anyway, what kind of inflammable/combustible materials are generally found in a, say, seedy, sub-urban public hospital?

I might, maybe, possibly work in a non-seedy suburban hospital. :)

Hypothetically, just for fiction, in no way related to my current job, or any past or future jobs: (Hello, NSA! :hi: ) -

I'd go for the boiler in the basement. Probably easier to get to than the gases, which are stored quite securely and usually have people working around them.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fCej2OQSKnY

A short video of the damage it could do.

melindamusil
05-06-2014, 11:00 PM
Could your character arrange for a gas leak followed by a suitable source of sparks? They tend to be extremely destructive in the "reduce entire building to a pile of rubble" sense and wouldn't rely on particular supplies.

A little over a year ago, JJ's restaurant in Kansas City exploded due to a gas leak. If you google it, you'll find plenty of info. In fact there's probably some of the news clips on youtube - the fire was pretty incredible. The building was totally destroyed, and several of the surrounding buildings were damaged.

Of course, the challenge with a gas leak explosion would be getting a sufficient quantity of gas without anyone noticing or smelling it. Is there a part of the hospital that is sufficiently isolated? say, a sub-basement? Maybe he could throw a couple of towels around the door to seal it up a bit. I have no experience with explosives, but I would imagine that if the gas built up within a small(ish) space, that would cause a bigger explosion.

It might take some time build up a sufficient amount of gas. Could there be a major gas pipeline running underneath the hospital? That could help to speed things up... maybe even cause the gas explosion nearly instantaneously.

He'd have to jury-rig something to cause a spark... hm... lemme think on that one...

King Neptune
05-06-2014, 11:08 PM
Is there any reason why they might have some propane tanks in the basement? Let's just say they are fuel fo the auxiliary generator. Let's open the valves, and open some O2 tanks (O2 is non flammable, but is encourages fires and explosion by supplying oxygen. And let's say that there are no sources of spark or open flame in the basement, unless someone uses the electro-mechanical telephone switch that is located there (or something similar, if you can think of something), and the character let's the propane and oxygen tanks empty for twenty minutes, and then makes a phone call to the hospital that opens a switch such that there is an exposed spark.

If you can think of another way to make a spark from outside at 3 AM, then do so. A seedy, old hospital might still have that kind of telephone switches. I thought of another ignition device, but see if this one works.

skylark
05-06-2014, 11:10 PM
He'd have to jury-rig something to cause a spark... hm... lemme think on that one...

If it didn't matter when the explosion happened, I'd attach something to the door of the not-often-used room and use the door being opened as the spark-generator.

wendymarlowe
05-07-2014, 08:06 PM
It would be more valuable to identify how it could work, if it could work, rather than comment on the believability of the plot point. Facts speak more clearly to whether or not this could be done.

I disagree. This is a writing site; I'm assuming all the questions asked here are to be viewed through the lens of ". . . so I can put this in a story." And sometimes there's a big difference between what *sounds* "real" and what actually *could* be real. Writers must try to not fall into that trap.

An example: cadaver-trained search dogs with water training can literally bite the water over the edge of the boat and give an alert when the boat is over a body, even hundreds of feet below the surface. If you wrote about a dog that just happens to notice a dead body at the bottom of a lake just by getting sprayed in the face by a wave while riding in a speedboat overhead, though, your readers are going to cry foul and stop reading. Conversely, your readers will probably have no problem believing a totally untrained housepet is capable of tracking down a lost family member in the woods in the dark in the rain - even though the chances of that happening are, statistically, vanishingly small.

My post was to point out that - whether or not there *actually* is a way to blow up a hospital using unusual materials on hand - readers would most likely interpret that plot device as contrived. The exception to this would be something your average reader would have associated with bombs or explosions (fertilizer? Oxygen tanks? Filling a room with natural gas from a broken pipe? Chemicals from some nebulous lab?)

badwolf.usmc
05-12-2014, 05:27 AM
You could have as a story plot that a former warlord used the building as a weapons warehouse before it was converted to a hospital.

Relic37
05-12-2014, 06:45 AM
Natural gas would be the obvious answer - except it is slightly lighter than air and would tend to float up and escape (if in a basement) so you would have to have closed doors and windows, no cracks or crevices to let it escape, etc. Propane (and the storage tank WOULD be outside the building to comply with fire codes) is slightly heavier than air and would tend to accumulate at floor level and accumulate nicely in a closed room, especially a basement. Ignition could be from any number of devices - such as an old fashioned telephone with a wooden match taped to the ringer and a rock for it to rub against - then just call the phone. Or place a long-burning candle up high inside a metal cabinet with the door just slightly ajar. Once the gas level fills the room up to the candle flame...and you can play with the rate-of-escape of the gas to have the explosion happen quickly or slowly, whatever the plot requires. Maybe somebody discovers the room full of gas, runs away for help, leaving the door open for the gas to begin filling the halls, stairwells, elevator shafts when the explosion occurs...

melindamusil
05-12-2014, 07:18 AM
Maybe somebody discovers the room full of gas, runs away for help, leaving the door open for the gas to begin filling the halls, stairwells, elevator shafts when the explosion occurs...

Or you could let the gas accumulate in a room that is somewhat near a load-bearing column.

(I'm thinking of the hospital near where I grew up... It was in the US but only a small-to-medium size hospital. 5 stories plus a basement and sub-basement. The entire hospital was serviced by a cluster of 4 elevators in the center of the hospital. If a bomb was to explode on one of the lower levels near the central elevators, I suspect that would collapse or severely damage most or all of the hospital.)

Cath
05-12-2014, 02:31 PM
I disagree. This is a writing site; I'm assuming all the questions asked here are to be viewed through the lens of ". . . so I can put this in a story." And sometimes there's a big difference between what *sounds* "real" and what actually *could* be real. Writers must try to not fall into that trap.

An example: cadaver-trained search dogs with water training can literally bite the water over the edge of the boat and give an alert when the boat is over a body, even hundreds of feet below the surface. If you wrote about a dog that just happens to notice a dead body at the bottom of a lake just by getting sprayed in the face by a wave while riding in a speedboat overhead, though, your readers are going to cry foul and stop reading. Conversely, your readers will probably have no problem believing a totally untrained housepet is capable of tracking down a lost family member in the woods in the dark in the rain - even though the chances of that happening are, statistically, vanishingly small.

My post was to point out that - whether or not there *actually* is a way to blow up a hospital using unusual materials on hand - readers would most likely interpret that plot device as contrived. The exception to this would be something your average reader would have associated with bombs or explosions (fertilizer? Oxygen tanks? Filling a room with natural gas from a broken pipe? Chemicals from some nebulous lab?)
I understand your perspective, but your first post was purely opinion based. What I'm trying to do is keep this room focused on discussing how a situation could be made to happen, not debate the merits of the plot points - there are other places on AW for those discussions. And yes, sometimes the solutions may be wild and over-the-top ridiculous, but providing facts not opinion allows the OP to make the judgment on viability themselves.

Disagree if you wish, but I will continue to ask folks to keep the discussion focused appropriate to this room.