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Bomb threat preparedness: defusing an explosive situation.

Nowadays bomb threats should be a major concern to management in both private businesses and the government. Because of today's politically active climate, the protection of life and property can't be delegated solely to law enforcement and security. Management needs to be trained in bomb incident preparedness and understand the actions it must undertake before, during, and after any bomb threat.

Organizations that are highly visible as well as those involved in controversial enterprises must be especially cautious. Normally bomb threats are made with the intention of disrupting business operations and creating an atmosphere of anxiety and panic.

Because most bomb threats are false, companies can easily become lulled into a false sense of security, which is dangerous. As a rule, bomb threats must be considered real until proven otherwise.

To better manage bomb threats, the crime prevention unit of the University of California at San Diego (UCSD) police department developed a series of bomb recognition and bomb threat training bulletins, which were distributed to key personnel and organizations throughout the university. Training bulletins stressed preincident planning and were presented in three parts.

The first part dealt with personnel, facilities, and departments that would be likely targets. The second part outlined the procedures associated with a bomb threat.

The third part outlined procedures that must be taken when a bomb or a suspicious device or package is found.

Companies should evaluate their own operations to determine to whom specifically a bomb threat would be made, at what facility it would likely be made, and why it would be made.

UCSD, for example, conducts extensive medical research and thus has numerous animal research facilities. Research personnel often receive bomb threats as well as personal threats from animal rights activists. As a result, UCSD trained all employees who work in its animal research facilities. IN PREPARING FOR A BOMB INCIDENT, AN organization needs to develop two separate but interdependent plans-one dealing with physical security, another addressing personnel response.

A physical security plan protects personnel, property, and facilities. This plan deals mainly with preventing and controlling access to buildings.

A personnel response plan outlines procedures to implement when a bomb threat is made. The main goal of the personnel response plan is to minimize injury and property damage and avoid disruption. A definite chain of command or line of authority must also be established.

According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, bomb incident planners must do the following: * Establish a command center and designate a chain of command. The command center should be the central switchboard or the police or security communications center. * Select alternative communications methods that can be used during a bomb incident. Portable radios should not be used at the scene since they may cause explosive devices to detonate prematurely. Telephones and intercoms are safer. * Establish who will evaluate a bomb threat and how. * Decide what procedures will be followed when a bomb threat is received or an explosive device is found. * Design an evacuation plan with flexible paths that avoid danger areas. * Have a contingency plan in case an explosive device detonates. * Review physical security plans in conjunction with the personnel response plan. * Establish an easy-to-follow procedure for the person receiving the bomb threat. * Appoint search teams. * Designate areas to be searched.

During the Gulf War, bomb incident planning was used at UCSD when several controversial individuals were scheduled to speak at a public lecture series. The lectures were to be held in the enormous student center complex before capacity audiences.

With this in mind, the police department conducted a complete search of the facility prior to the event. Officers used dogs trained to detect explosive ordnance. Key personnel were briefed about possible bomb threats.

The briefings and extra security paid off when a bomb threat was received before a particularly controversial individual was scheduled to talk. Although the lecture was delayed, management knew what was expected of it, and the threat was handled with minimum disruption. WHEN A BOMB THREAT IS MADE, THE PERson receiving the threat should remain calm and record the caller's exact words. The FBI Bomb Data Center in Washington, DC, has a bomb threat synopsis form, which it will send to companies who request it. Among other items, the form lists key questions to ask the caller. (See exhibit.) Companies should keep these forms at locations and installations that are likely to receive threats.

An individual may threaten a facility directly rather than by calling the police or the security department. In this case, the police or security dispatcher will receive word of a bomb threat from a representative of the facility and must get as much information as possible from him or her.

When the caller provides a lot of details, such as the bomb's location, the time of detonation, and the reason for planting the bomb, the facility representative may panic and expect the dispatcher to tell him or her whether to evacuate. Unless evacuation circumstances are specifically outlined in your bomb incident plan, this decision should not be made until police or security personnel confer with the facility's representatives.

When UCSD receives a bomb threat, the police department watch commander meets with the facility's senior representative to evaluate the threat. The threat is evaluated by specificity and motivation.

Specificity refers to the number of details contained in the threat. Generally, the more detailed the threat, the more credible it is. Motivation refers to the reason for the threat. The motive may be stated in the threat, or it may be discernible from other sources.

After evaluating the threat and assessing its credibility, the senior representative decides whether to evacuate the facility before searching it. If the representative does not want to accept this responsibility or is unable to make the decision, the UCSD police department will evacuate and search the facility.

Today, many businesses and organizations prefer to evacuate a facility immediately without first evaluating the threat. Such a policy, however, disrupts personnel and productivity.

A plan also needs to specify who will conduct searches. If police or security personnel do the searches, an employee who is familiar with the facility should accompany them so he or she can point out irregularities.

Before a facility is searched, those involved in the search need to be aware of the following; * If the caller said where the bomb was located, check there first. * If the caller did not say where the bomb was located, searchers should be deployed in a manner that covers the exterior and interior of the facility as quickly as possible. Areas should be checked in the following order: 1. the exterior of the facility 2. public access areas, such as lobbies, rest rooms, stairwells, and trash receptacles 3. physical plant spaces, such as custodial closets, lockers, and central heating and cooling areas 4. areas normally occupied by employees 5. record, storage, and mail rooms * Police or security personnel should be informed of unattended packages. Anything that looks unusual or out of place should be suspect and not touched. Explosive ordnance personnel will deal with these objects. * "Open" bombs may have a stick or two of dynamite attached to a battery, a blasting cap, and a timer. "Closed" bombs may be contained in a brown bag, purse, briefcase, thermos, or other container. * If a facility search is conducted without first evacuating employees and an explosive device or suspicious package is discovered, employees should be evacuated immediately. * When to evacuate and how far people should be from the building depends on the size of the facility and the number of employees. But as a general rule, when an explosive device has not been found, a facility should be evacuated at least 15 minutes before the time the caller said the bomb will go off. And employees should stand at least 300 feet from the building. * If an explosive device or suspicious package is found during a search, property damage can be minimized by opening windows and doors.

When developing bomb incident procedures, preserving life and property should be foremost. No single course of action will always be suitable. Whatever procedures are outlined must provide some degree of flexibility, and each incident must be evaluated individually. Alan B. Jenkins is a crime prevention officer with the University of California at San Diego police department. He is a member of ASIS.
COPYRIGHT 1991 American Society for Industrial Security
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:Special Issue
Author:Jenkins, Alan B.
Publication:Security Management
Date:Nov 1, 1991
Previous Article:Who's watching the workplace? The electronic monitoring debate spreads to Capitol Hill.
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