Bomb threats can occur for a number of reasons. Individuals may have a grudge against a certain person or company, may want to create a panic, or may simply want attention Others make threats in connection with terrorism or other criminal activity. Although the vast majority of bomb threats are false, they should all be taken seriously. Pre-emergency planning and proper action can prevent a potentially dangerous situation.
The majority of all bomb threats are made by telephone. If you receive a call, obtain as much information from the caller as possible. This will help determine the course of action to take and assist the Police Department with its investigation. Take notes and ask the following questions:
- Where is the device?
- When is it set to go off?
- What does the device look like?
- Who are you?
- Why are you doing this?
If the person phoning in a bomb threat has actually planted a device, it is likely that he/she is calling to provide a warning to prevent or minimize injury and may be willing to give vital information. Any information received can be helpful. Asking questions may also keep the caller on the phone longer giving you a chance to listen for familiar sounds in the background or the description of the caller. This may assist in identifying the caller.
When documenting the call, it is very important to include the exact time and the caller’s exact words. Once the call concludes, the Police Department should be notified by calling 911. If there is a problem with the 911 system, please call 213.626.5273.
The threat should be evaluated to determine whether it is specific or non-specific. A specific threat is one that provides information relating to the detonation time of the device and/or its location. Other information may be included. With this information a detailed search can be made for a suspicious object. The search should be limited to a visual inspection of each area only. Nothing should be touched. All tenants will be notified as soon as possible in the event of a bomb threat. It is up to each firm to decide whether or not to evacuate. Evacuation routes should be searched beforehand.
A non-specific threat does not provide much information. In this case, it may not be feasible to do a detailed search. However, high traffic areas should be checked such as the main lobby, elevator lobbies, and main entrances.
For optimum effectiveness, the search should be conducted by individuals familiar with the area in question. Tenants should search their suites. Staff members should search common areas and equipment rooms. Two-way radios should not be used as they can activate a detonator. When searching, always check the outside perimeter of a room first. Be sure to check above false ceilings.
Types of Devices
When searching for a suspicious object(s), look for anything out of the ordinary. Always keep in mind that the design of a bomb depends solely on the imagination of the person building it. A briefcase, lunch box or book are just three of the many things that can be used to hide an explosive device. Bombs can also be disguised as letters or packages and mailed to the intended victim. Due to the handling involved, letter bombs are usually designed to detonate only when opened.
There are certain things to look for if you receive a suspicious letter or package:
- Foreign mail, special delivery
- Restrictive markings such as “Confidential,” “Personal,” etc.
- Excessive postage
- Handwritten or poorly typed address
- Incorrect titles
- Title but no names
- Misspelling of common words
- Oily stains or discolorations
- No return address
- Excessive weight
- Rigid envelope
- Lopsided or uneven envelope
- Protruding wires or tin foil
- Excessive securing material such as a masking tape, string, etc.
- Visual distractions
Finding a Suspicious Object
If a suspicious object is located, do not touch it. Isolate the area immediately and if possible, open doors and windows in the area. This will allow the device to vent itself if it detonates. Always consider secondary devices. Notify the Police Department by calling 911 and immediately give them a description and location of the device. Also notify the Office of the Building at 213.624.3229.
Detonation of a Device
If a device is detonated, fire procedures should be followed as appropriate.