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Don't blow it.

BECAUSE SECURITY PROFESSIONals in the United States rarely experience an actual explosion or confirm the existence of an improvised explosive device, they have been lulled to sleep when it comes to developing bomb threat and bombing response plans.

In fact, it seems that corporate America only worries about bomb security after a threat is received. Even then, the primary concern is to reduce civil liability, not to handle evidence efficiently or develop it for criminal prosecution.

The following two case studies are typical bomb threat scenarios.

* Case one. Company X received three telephoned bomb threats in five weeks. The third one closed down the manufacturer's main assembly line for more than three hours. It took another four hours before all the machinery was back on line. The cost of these bomb threats to the company in lost productivity was nearly $300,000.

Obviously the company's hastily prepared bomb threat plan did not work. The employees were concerned, and to add to the problem, the six-month labor dispute with an outcast union had turned ugly. The security manager recommended bringing in a consultant who specialized in bomb threats and bombing.

The consultant quickly assessed the threat. A new plan for receiving and responding to threats was formulated and communicated to the employees. The new plan included elements aimed at reducing the need for evacuations, involved the employees in their own safety, and established investigative leads for law enforcement authorities.

The consultant found that the company had no procedure to capture information on past bomb threats. Fortunately, due to the labor problems, the company had followed a police recommendation and installed audiotaping equipment.

Two of the three bomb threats had been recorded. The consultant charted key elements of the calls- sex of the caller, time of day, and the specific number called. The patterns of the taped voices were compared and similarities were established.

By comparing the data generated by the telephone tapes with the personnel department's records on work schedules, shift changes, vacation days, and sick leave, the consultant produced a short list of suspect employees.

Citing court opinions that authorized the use of voice prints during an investigation, the consultant introduced the idea during employee interviews. Immediately, a longtime employee, fearful of losing his retirement benefits, confessed to making the bomb threats on behalf of his union. The employee emphasized that no bomb ever existed and that he never intended to hurt anyone.

In Case two. A two-tower, 80-floor corporate building complex owned by a real estate holding company and housing one major tenant and approximately 20 other single-floor tenants had nine bomb threats in four weeks. Each time a different tenant was threatened.

The building had no common bomb plan, notification, or coordination procedures in place. The only way the occupants of the building became aware that another tenant had received a bomb threat was if they noticed employees of the threatened finn running out of the building.

The managers of the remaining firms felt unable to assess the risk to their employees. Some, even though they had no idea why, ordered the evacuation of their employees as a copycat reaction to avoid liability.

The major tenant, a large financial institution with the only professional security department in the building, hired a security consultant to develop a bomb threat response plan that the other tenants and the building management would use.

But the problem was political-no one tenant wanted to take orders from any other tenant. The financial institution realized that the credentials of the security consultant had to be satisfactory to all the tenants to make the plan work.

Key personnel from all the tenant firms and the holding company met with the consultant to establish a consensus of what needed to be accomplished and how the responsibilities would be divided. After the security consultant developed the customized bomb threat response plan, five seminars were conducted to address concerns and facilitate acceptance and implementation of the procedures.

Some of the questions explored at the seminars follow.

Who are the most qualified people to conduct a search for an improvised explosive device?

What areas should be searched first?

How should a bomb search be conducted and coordinated?

What does an improvised explosive device look like?

What are the most common hiding places?

Can an one guarantee that no improvised explosive device is present after a thorough search?

If a suspicious item is found, must employees be evacuated?

Why and when should an evacuation be undertaken?

If an evacuation is necessary, what size area must be cleared?

Where should the evacuees be directed to go for safety?

Once employees are evacuated, what determines when it is safe to return to work?

How should the authorities be notified the situation?

In the first case study, the employee who was responsible for making the bomb threats was not the only one who overlooked the impact of the evacuations on the economic survival of the company.

The CEO and the security manager viewed security planning as a required financial loss activity. They failed to recognize that effective security planning generates information for use in making critical decisions, such as whether or not to evacuate, and that in the long run effective security saves money for the company.

Both of these case studies had successful outcomes but not without unexpected costs. The costly evacuations could have been avoided with proper planning and anticipation.

THE MOST COMMON BOMB THREAT IS classified as nonspecific. A nonspecific threat is when a caller or a letter warns of a bomb on the premises but gives no specific details. In these cases, little can be done. The threat should be recorded accurately, and an unintrusive search of the premises-perimeter, entrances and exits, stairways, and public areas-should be conducted as a precautionary measure. Managers labor over whether it is necessary to notify all their employees about a nonspecific threat and whether they should order an evacuation. Many decision makers who have authorized evacuations admit that they didn't know what else to do and wanted to protect their corporations from liability.

Unnecessary evacuations are dangerous and expensive insurance policies. They provide no real protection from a bomb or the liability that may result from an improperly managed incident.

A specific threat occurs when a caller or letter provides specific information about a bomb, such as location, time of detonation, or reason for placing the bomb. Reaction to such a threat requires an immediate search of the area specified in the threat and the surrounding area.

Management should make sure that all public access stairways, fire stairs, and rest rooms in the vicinity of the threat location are searched and secured. This will be particularly helpful if establishing a safe route of evacuation becomes necessary.

The tenant in each office should be asked to conduct a search of his or her work space. They know better than anyone what belongs there and what does not. Employees or tenants should be advised not to touch or move any suspicious items. When each employee or tenant has completed his or her search, the results should be reported to the individual coordinating the search.

If the search unveils a suspicious object, it must be treated as an explosive device. It requires professional scrutiny and handling.

A specific threat requires that public safety authorities be notified. The security manager or search coordinator should maintain a log of all the events for the authorities.

THE MIDDLE EASTERN AND THE EUROpean bombing experience is quite different from the US experience. In the Middle East and Europe, a bomb explodes, people are killed and injured, and property is destroyed, and then a telephone call is made from a group taking credit for the damages.

US bomb threat procedures offer no protection from the no-threat bomb. Such procedures depend on a threat. US intelligence believes, however, that no-threat bombs will eventually become an American problem. Now is the time to enhance domestic security without unreasonable inconvenience or cost.

Individual awareness is the key. Employees must learn to challenge unidentified objects, lock public access areas, and only allow access to authorized personnel. To promote awareness, management must show its support for training, and individuals must realize that security is a shared responsibility.

This level of awareness does not just happen. In countries where the no-threat bomb is a terrorist tool, awareness has been forced by the circumstances. In the United States, security professionals are responsible for incorporating awareness and preparedness into their security plans.

People are usually familiar with what they are supposed to do in case of a fire; most communities have fire codes that require practice drills several times a year. Unfortunately, training for an explosion is rarely required. Following are questions to ask about your company's security procedures.

How would your security plans be modified if an improvised explosive device was found or exploded at your place of business?

Would your current bomb plan work for a no-threat bomb?

Is your bomb plan well integrated and supported by a critical incident disaster plan?

Who will make the decisions?

Do you have an X-ray machine?

Is the X-ray machine's operator trained to identify improvised explosive devices?

Is the X-ray screening point in a location that would reduce the need for evacuation and facilitate the removal of the suspicious items?

Do you believe that your decision maker has the necessary information to decide not to evacuate, and would he or she be able to explain, under oath, why he or she made that decision?

The only way to deal with the variety of security threats confronting private and public organizations is to be informed and prepared. It is the responsibility of the security professional to provide structure and guidance through a flexible and coherent security plan.

The plan must be open for review and to scrutiny, and it must be practiced regularly. If it does not answer or address the questions posed about bombs or bomb threats, the plan will fail when failure is unacceptable.
COPYRIGHT 1992 American Society for Industrial Security
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:dealing with bomb threats
Author:McCarthy, William F.; Quigley, Robert C.
Publication:Security Management
Date:Mar 1, 1992
Words:1665
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