I tested this in sandbox, and as recommended, I've added the 'knowns,' including geography and timeframe.

What and how would we go about salvaging an alien craft in the immediate days after a crash?

In Portland, Oregon, USA, a large 'saucer' of 350m radius and a thickness of 30m has crashed into the west hills leaving debris, but remaining largely intact. It's understood that no aliens have survived, and the human count is very low. Forest fires have been contained. Now what?

  • Date: near-future (in the next few years)
  • Available: Dead "gray" aliens; technology we don't know how to deconstruct, but also metal alloys we're familiar with (steel, electrical cabling). Meaning there's nothing of immediate value.
  • Timeframe: First 5 days after figuring out what just happened.
  • Discovery: After the fire was put out by local first responders assisted those whose houses were destroyed by the impact and blast of something large landing near them.
  • Initial impact: Fire and brimstone witnessed at night, made a loud noise, broke a lot of windows - it was conspicuous. Now it appears similar to an aircraft wreck site, but it is suddenly obvious to be alien in nature.

What are the responses by the public and the local government? Federal / International governments have not had a chance to verify and respond in the first five days, not unlike the alleged mishandling of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. This is local public, and local government, not black helicopters coming from DC.

Note: we don't have a UFO tag??

Edit: As requested, I am adding the dimensions in yards: 350m = 383yds; 30m = 33yds.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ It strikes me as weird that something could re-enter and then leave a small crater without drawing the attention of transportation safety investigators...(they certainly would be interested if a spacecraft crashed into our planet's surface with humans still aboard.) $\endgroup$
    – Shalvenay
    Jan 19, 2016 at 0:58
  • $\begingroup$ @Shalvenay - they may have caught it, but this is about the local government response before them; good point. ^ for helping me with the story! $\endgroup$
    – Mikey
    Jan 19, 2016 at 1:02
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    $\begingroup$ I would think you would have lots of people nearby flocking to the scene and taking pictures, etc. We don't have a UFO tag because normally people don't ask how people will react to an unidentified flying object, they talk about aliens. Besides, your ship isn't a UFO, we know it is an alien spaceship. (Could you please add the sizes in yards?) $\endgroup$ Jan 19, 2016 at 1:18
  • $\begingroup$ you may be interested in that Question here: worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/23409/… one of my favorites over here $\endgroup$ Jan 19, 2016 at 9:59
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    $\begingroup$ How do you intend for the federal government to be kept in the dark for 5 days? If the spacecraft was traveling through space it's heat would be detected before it entered our solar system (even without using engines). If it was completely powered down (and thus the aliens where already dead) it is possible for it to go undetected until it hits atmosphere, at which point it would become something like a comet strike. At least someone will take notice at that point and I expect that news to spread rather fast. Withing hours I believe federal government will be at site and taking charge. $\endgroup$
    – Selenog
    Jan 19, 2016 at 11:03

4 Answers 4


The very first thing that will happen today is virtually every person in the city will be out there with cell phones taking pictures and posting on social media.

Millions of Facebook pages, tweets, YouTube uploads and inputs into other platforms will disrupt internet and cellular service in the area for a period of time, but enough of the news will leak out globally so government agencies will not be able to "contain" the news or hide the event (assuming that this is truly what they would want to do, as countless conspiracy theories and shows would have us believe).

The first responder agencies will do what they can to contain fires and rescue people who might have been trapped in buildings or cars in the vicinity of the crash, and the local police department will be calling for help to cordon off the area from curiosity seekers, as well as asking for high level help to determine if there are any hazards associated with the crash site, such as radioactivity and toxic materials releases. As an aside, hospitals will be overwhelmed by people who are absolutely convinced they have been affected by radiation, toxic materials, alien disease, alien pregnancies etc.

As the National Guard and specialists arrive, more and more rumours and conspiracy theories will be circulating as people speculate as to what is really happening. (In the medium term, service providers will have to start adding extra capacity to their networks because users such as business, banks and government agencies will complain they are being disrupted).

USG agencies will be there well within the first 24hrs. The NTSB will have dispatched a crash investigation team (especially with the initial reports that it was an aircraft), and Portland has any number of federal agency offices in or near the area, so you could expect Homeland Security, the FBI, the EPA and hordes of other bureaucrats attempting to assess the site and claim it as their bureaucratic "turf".

Because of the nature of the crash, and requests for high level assistance to determine if it is a toxic or radioactive hazard, the US Navy will probably send teams from their west coast ports, the Air Force will fly in teams and the Army and Marines will eventually be given the long term task of securing the area. Security and intelligence agencies will also start appearing as well, and you can imagine the battle royal over bureaucratic prerogatives and budgets.

So expect an ever expanding circle of confusion, rumours and bureaucratic rivalry around the crash site.

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    $\begingroup$ it's just a weather balloon :) $\endgroup$
    – jwenting
    Jan 19, 2016 at 8:25
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    $\begingroup$ 24 Alien Crashes That Will BLOW YOUR MIND! #7 Made Me Cry $\endgroup$ Jan 19, 2016 at 10:33

Well, initially it will be noticed an explosion and fire, so FD and PD will be deployed to do their job (stop fires, control traffic around, etc.)

Once the UFO is identified, it will go up the chain of command. FD and PD will keep doing their jobs (add also restrict access to the zone) until they are told to stop doing so.

Keep in mind that it is a new experience, so no agency will have protocols to deal with. In the absence of instructions, they will happily continue doing what they know to do (and which happens to be their task, extinguish fires and protect people and property); as long as the UFO does not begin attacking there is no need to change that and they can wait for more "expert" help to arrive.

I would also add that I find your comparation with Katrina a little exagerated; in that case the issue was not the actual time needed to deploy but that, due to a mixup of responsabilities, nobody gave the order to deploy. When the UFO is sighted, it will be clearly outside the limits of the local agencies and responsability will be passed quickly to Federal agencies.

  • $\begingroup$ Yes, that is fair (about Katrina), I'm not making a political statement, just the description from survivors of the first five days where federal government wasn't able to get to them quickly enough - for obvious reasons, flooding, chaos, etc.; in this description, I'd like to know the local response in a similar timeframe and complexity. Good answer. $\endgroup$
    – Mikey
    Jan 19, 2016 at 1:05
  • $\begingroup$ And worse, with Katrina conflicting interests between local, regional, and national governments prevented cooperation and led to deployed forces not being allowed to do their job. Which is a possibility in the case of a crashed alien spaceship as well. Though who'd have the clout to stop the FAA and DHS from putting boots on the ground I don't know. $\endgroup$
    – jwenting
    Jan 19, 2016 at 8:24
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    $\begingroup$ “No agency will have protocols to deal with,” I wouldn’t bet on it. First of all, the possibility has been part of our social consciousness for a long time, so it’s quite likely that various agencies have drafted something, even if it was done as a half-joke. Secondly, one presumes that to begin people would follow the usual unidentified flying object crash procedures, which definitely do exist since the term UFO originally referred to human aircraft of unknown origin, not extraterrestrial vessels. $\endgroup$
    – KRyan
    Jan 19, 2016 at 18:14
  • $\begingroup$ Agree with KRyan but think it should be stressed even more. I would be surprised, shocked even, to find out that the US government does not have a plan for this exact scenario and for many other scenarios like it. In fact, if the federal government told us that they had no such plan, I would assume that denial was a lie. US federal government has a contingency plan for everything, even for invading its allied nations, which it has no plans or interest in actually doing, so it likely has something for E.T., whether crash-landed or still alive. $\endgroup$
    – Loduwijk
    Jul 13, 2017 at 20:29

The basic workflow for "something big fell out of the sky and left a crater in a part of the world with established infrastructure" runs as follows:

  1. Locals --or Search And Rescue (SAR) assets for things on a flight plan-- discover the scene, conduct any obvious SAR (i.e. assist survivors who are walking around if there are any or pull folks out who are sticking out of the wreck), and contact authorities (911, given the locale the OP is setting their story in)
  2. The local Fire Department (FD) would dispatch to the call first, followed shortly after by the local Police Department (PD)
  3. The local FD arrives on scene and surveys it, deciding whether further SAR activity or suppression is needed.
  4. The local FD engages in SAR and/or suppression with their "first in" units -- in the meantime, they set up an Incident Command Structure (ICS) to deal with this all
  5. The FD would be triaging whatever survivors and bodies they find as part of this -- for an all-fatal crash, this is "tag and bag".
  6. Further FD (local and mutual aid) resources may be called/dispatched depending on the magnitude of the problem (secondary fires, mass casualty, and other things). In the meantime, the PD arrives and takes full control of traffic/access at the mishap scene, plugging into the ICS when they do.
  7. Given that there is wreckage and a smoldering crater of such magnitude (airliner-sized if not bigger in the OP's description), the transportation investigation agency for that country --the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) in the US-- will send at least one investigator if not a full Go-Team of investigators out within 24h of discovery of the crash site.
  8. Once the scene is made safe for the NTSB to work, their field investigation will begin in earnest.

(And then life gets interesting...)

  • $\begingroup$ Could you expand a few of these acronyms? Some I can guess, but it trips me up that there's so many of them. $\endgroup$
    – IMSoP
    Jan 19, 2016 at 14:24

This is your story, and you can justify a Federal paralysis if you want to.

Imagine a primary election where one candidate went public that he believes in UFOs and that he'll declassify all the Roswell files. That candidate got demolished by the others as a crackpot and had to drop out of the race. Meanwhile the other party has candidates and governors who have their own crackpot theories about Black Helicopters, those get elected and push for legislation/executive orders to prevent Federal interference in local problems.

As a result, no official will dare to say "this is an UFO, send in the Feds."

On the other hand, it is a bit large to explain it as an airliner. So maybe it will be reported as a crashed airship.


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