Bomb Threat Preparedness: Defusing an Explosive Situation

By Jenkins, Alan B. | Security Management, November 1991 | Go to article overview

Bomb Threat Preparedness: Defusing an Explosive Situation


Jenkins, Alan B., Security Management


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. …

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