Bomb threats are a serious public concern of recent times. A bomb threat could be either a prank or a genuine warning of an impending bomb attack. The uncertainty creates a risk that cannot be ignored. Usually, bomb threats are committed by individuals seeking to create a state of alarm and confusion in an organisation. The disruption may be minimised by proper site-specific planning and nomination of appropriate decision-making authorities.
These procedures have been developed on the assumption that all threats will be treated as genuine until investigation proves otherwise. The aim is to take all practical steps to safeguard life, and to ensure that unnecessary actions are not taken which may risk the safety of any persons.
The Chief Warden is generally the person responsible to determine the credibility of bomb threats. However, in most instances it is important to treat any potential or proposed threat seriously (until determined otherwise) and in most cases the police must be contacted as soon as possible. Other specialist staff may be utilised in this decision-making process.
Initial Emergency Action
Once a threat has been made, the main responsibilities of the Chief Warden in dealing with the situation are to:
- Develop an effective evacuation plan to deal with bomb threats
- Assess the long- and short-term threat
- Contact police, consider the decision to evacuate
- Make the decision to evacuate
- Make the decision to reoccupy site/buildings
- Schedule training and security exercises
After each emergency all ECO and EPC members shall meet and participate in a Debrief.Phone Bomb-Threat Checklist
- If a bomb threat is received in writing, it should be kept, including any envelope or container. Once a message is recognised as a bomb threat, further unnecessary handling should be avoided. Every possible effort must be made to retain evidence such as possible fingerprints, handwriting or typewriting, paper and postmarks. Such evidence should be protected by placing the evidence in an envelope.
- An accurate analysis of the telephone threat can provide valuable information on which to base recommendations, action and subsequent investigation. The person receiving the bomb threat by telephone should, as soon as possible, complete the information required in the Bomb Threat Checklist. This checklist should be readily available to those answering incoming calls. DO NOT HANG UP the phone. A call may still be traced even if the caller has hung up the phone.
- A suspect object is any object found on the premises and deemed a possible threat by virtue of its characteristics, location and circumstances
Following an analysis of information received, the Chief Warden should categorise the bomb threats into the categories of ‘specific’ and ‘non-specific’.
- The caller will provide more detailed information, which could include statements describing the device, why it was placed, its location, the time of activation and other details. Although less common, the specific threat is the more credible.
- An individual may make a simple statement to the effect that a device has been placed. Generally, very little, if any, additional detail is conveyed before the caller terminates the conversation.
- Upon receipt of a threat, the Police should be immediately advised.
- There are four options to be used as a guide to action following the evaluation of a threat:
- Take no further action
- Search without evacuation – If a suspect item is identified during the search than evacuation should be considered
- Evacuate and search
- Evacuate without a search
- Each of these options have advantages and disadvantages related to safety, speed of search, thoroughness, productivity and morale, and must be assessed against the potential risk
- An analysis of a threat or the discovery of a suspect object should determine the requirements to evacuate the building or area.
The most appropriate personnel to carry out a search, in any given area, are the occupants of the building or area as they have the knowledge of ‘what belongs’ or ‘what does not belong’ at a location.
The aim of the search is to identify any object that is not normally found in an area or location, or for which an owner is not readily identifiable or becomes suspect for any other reason, such as:
- A suspiciously labelled object
- An object similar to that described in the threat
- An object of unusual size, shape and sound
- The presence of piece of tape, wire, string or explosive wrappings, or other unfamiliar materials
Care should be taken with any devices that produce electromagnetic radiation (such as mobile phones, radio sets, and wireless technology transmission) where improvised explosive devices are suspected. Such equipment should not be used until clearance is given by the attending bomb technicians. If you need to use a device that produces electromagnetic radiation, it is recommended that you ensure you are at least 25 metres away from the suspicious object.
General priorities for searching should follow the following structure:
- Outside areas including evacuation assembly areas.
- Building entrances and exits and, particularly, paths people will use to evacuate.
- Public areas within buildings.
- Other areas
Remember, a complete and systematic search takes time. Combat fatigue or loss of concentration by taking regular breaks or rotating teams.
If a suspect object is found, ensure you DO NOT TOUCH OR MOVE the object for any reason. Carefully analyse the item for any of the following factors:
- Is the item unidentified?
- Is the item unusual or foreign to its environment? Is the item typical for its environment?
- Is the item obviously a bomb?
- Is the item hidden or concealed in any way?
- Has there been any unauthorised access to the area?
- Has there been a perimeter breach?
- Package is labelled suspiciously
- Similar to package described in a threat
- Foreign to premises
- Questionable as to origin
- Suspicious in size, shape, weight and sound
- Signs of footprints, scrapes, etc.
- Presence of pieces of tape, wire, string or explosive wrappings
- Furniture or fittings tampered with
- Do NOT touch
- Clear people away from the immediate vicinity to a distance of at least 25 metres
- Do NOT use a phone or mobile unless you are at least 25 metres away.
- Inform a warden
- Inform Police
- Secure the area
- Initiate evacuation as appropriate
If you find suspicious mail, assess the following:
- Is it hazardous or Suspicious Mail?
- Does it have excessive
- Securing material?
- Are there protruding wires or foil?
- Is it lopsided or unevenly weighted?
- Does it have oily stains or visible powder or crystals?
- Is it a stiff or ridged envelope?
- Is the package or mail expected?
- Are there visual distractions on the packaging?
- Are proper names and titles not used?
- Is the address handwritten or poorly typed?
- Does it have restrictive markings, such as ‘Confidential’ written on it?
- Are common words misspelt?
- Is it external or foreign mail?
- Does it lack a sender address?
- Do NOT open or shake the parcel/letter
- Place the parcel/letter in a plastic bag and seal it – place this bag into another plastic bag and seal it
- Stay in your immediate environment and prevent others from entering the area
- DO turn off any personal fans in the immediate area
- DO call for help – contact a warden immediately
- DO wash your hands if you are able to access facilities in your immediate area
- DO NOT touch your face with your hands or any part of your body that has open wounds
- If you HAVE opened a letter/parcel that contains suspicious powder, follow the above steps along with the following:
- DO cover the object without touching or disturbing it further
- If any material has spilt from the item, DO NOT try to clean it up
- DO NOT brush powder off your clothing or off any other surface
If the decision to evacuate is made, people should be requested to remove all personal belongings, e.g. handbags, briefcases, shopping or carry bags, when evacuating. This will facilitate the identification of suspect objects.
Evacuations in the case of a bomb threat need to consider the following:
- There may be a need to evacuate persons via alternate exits and evacuation areas depending on where the device is located
- Evacuation routes and assembly points must be searched to ensure personnel are not unnecessarily exposed to danger during the evacuation
- Designate an Assembly Area well away from buildings and clear of windows
- Avoid car parks as Assembly Areas and be mindful of the potential for car bombs
- Where possible keep doors open while and after evacuating as this can lessen the impact of an explosion
- No one should attempt to touch or disturb any suspicious item or object
- Upon notification of a bomb threat, contact the Police to report the threat. Information about the type of threat, location and particulars will be given.
- Information to building occupants will be provided based on feedback from the Police. Police Officers will want to speak to the person who discovered or received the threat. Detailed information about the caller or device will assist.
- The Police will determine whether an evacuation is necessary. An evacuation may be commenced prior to the police attending, based on the threat analysis.
- In order to prevent panic, the evacuation should be conducted in a normal way. At no time should the reason for evacuation be broadcast.
Risk of Injury
- As a general rule, the easiest place to plant an object is in the shrubbery that is sometimes found outside a building, an adjoining car park or in an area to which the public has the easiest access. Immediate evacuation through these areas might increase the risk of injury and car parks should not normally be used as assembly areas.
- A sudden bomb threat evacuation may cause panic and unpredictable behaviour, leading to unnecessary risk of injury.