Bombs, Threats, and How to Handle Them
Explosions and bomb-threats are a harsh reality in the current times. As the threat spreads to the life of common man, it becomes imperative for him to actively participate in dealing with it. No organization, including the police can do what collective responsibility can. Awareness and preparation are the key words in dealing with the threat, whether potential or real.
If people at large understand and execute certain laid down guidelines, they can greatly reduce the potential of personal injury, property loss and trauma that accompanies a bomb-threat. Most important of all, they can help to reduce panic, the most contagious of all the human reactions and the ultimate achievement of the person executing the bomb-threat.
What is a Bomb?
Bombs are explosive devices. They can be constructed to look like almost anything and can be placed or delivered in any number of ways. (How we wish they all looked like the ones shown in movies, with fancy switches, colourful wires and a big watch hanging with the whole paraphernalia!) The only common denominator that exists among bombs is that they are designed to explode.
Most bombs or as we call them IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devises) are handmade and are limited in their design only by the imagination of, and resources available to, the bomber. Remember, when looking for a bomb, suspect anything that looks unusual and out of place.
The thumb-rule is, anything, unless it belongs to you or is something you know (not presume) about, may be a bomb. Simple? Leave it to the trained bomb technician to determine whether it is a bomb or not.
Most establishments already have some planned or unplanned security in place. Locks on windows and doors, outside lights, etc., are all designed and installed to contribute toward the security and the protection of its occupants.
In considering measures to increase security for your building or establishment, it is highly recommended that you perform a ‘security audit’ for your home or establishment. Don’t be intimidated by the word.
It merely involves thinking of the various opportunities your establishment offers to someone to come close enough to harm the occupants, or to plant some explosive device there.
You may consider establishing a task force involving staff and security personnel working in your establishment for this purpose. There are various private organizations which may help you in this. In the case of any difficulty or help needed, please contact the nearest police station. They shall be happy to help you.
There is no single security plan that is adaptable to all situations. The following recommendations are offered because they may contribute to reducing your vulnerability to bomb attacks.
- The exterior configuration of a building or facility is very important. Unfortunately, in most instances, the architect has given little or no consideration to security, particularly toward thwarting or discouraging a bomb attack. However, by the addition of fencing and lighting, and by controlling access, the vulnerability of a facility to a bomb attack can be reduced significantly.
- Bombs being delivered by car or left in a car are a grave reality. Visitors parking should be restricted, if possible, to 300 feet from your building or any building in a complex. If restricted parking is not feasible, properly identified vehicles of residents or employees should be parked closest to your building and visitor vehicles parked at a distance.
- Heavy shrubs and vines should be kept close to the ground to reduce their potential to conceal criminals or bombs. Window boxes and planters are perfect receptacles for the bomber. Unless there is an absolute requirement for such ornamentation, window boxes and planters are better removed. If they must remain, security personnel should be briefed to check them regularly.
- A highly visible security man can be a significant deterrent. Even if this “patrol” is only one security guard/night guard, he can be optimally utilized outside the building. Consider the installation of closed circuit television cameras that cover exterior building perimeters. Have an adequate burglar alarm system installed. Post signs indicating that such a system is in place.
- Entrance/exit doors may be given a second glance. Solid wood or sheet metal faced doors provide extra integrity that a hollow-core wooden door cannot provide. Bars, grates, heavy mesh screens, or steel shutters over windows offer good protection from otherwise unwanted entry. Floor vents, transoms, and skylights should also be covered.
- Controls should be established for positively identifying personnel who are authorized access to critical areas. These controls should extend to the inspection of all packages and materials being taken into critical areas.
- Security and maintenance personnel should be alert for people who act in a suspicious manner, as well as objects, items, or parcels which look out of place or suspicious. Surveillance should be established to include potential hiding places (e.g., stairwells, rest rooms, and any vacant office space) for unwanted individuals.
- Doors or access ways to such areas as boiler rooms, mail rooms, computer areas, switchboards, and elevator control rooms should remain locked when not in use. It is important to establish a procedure for the accountability of keys.
- Entrances and exits can be modified with a minimal expenditure to channel all visitors through a reception desk. Individuals entering the building would be required to sign a register indicating the name and room number of the person whom they wish to visit. A system for signing out when the individual departs could be integrated into this procedure.
- Maintenance of good public relations is important for every organization. However, please remember that ensuring security for your organization and your patrons is vital. And YOU are responsible for it. The threatened use of explosives necessitates that in the interest of safety and security, some inconvenience may have to be imposed on visitors to public buildings. Fortunately, the public is becoming more accustomed to routine security checks and will readily accept these minor inconveniences.
Keep a Plan Ready:
It is easy to lose your nerve when you pick up the phone and hear a grave voice telling you that your home or office is going to be blown up any minute. It is very important to be prepared with an organized plan to deal with such a situation. This will help you to tide over any threat situation without unnecessary panic, confusion, and chaos in your building or establishment.
Responding to a Bomb Threat:
- All your phones must have caller ID system. Having a facility for automatic recording of calls is not a bad idea. Probability of being caught is the biggest deterrent for any prankster. Let your employees/workers/students know that you have state-of-art machines fitted at your central phone console. It helps.
- Treat all threat calls as important. Just because statistics suggest that most of the bomb-threats are hoax, it does not give us any room for complacency.
- Instruct all personnel, especially those at the telephone switchboard, in what to do if a bomb-threat is received. A calm response to the bomb threat caller could result in obtaining additional information. This is especially true if the caller is a genuine one and wishes to avoid injuries or deaths. If told that the building is occupied or cannot be evacuated in time, the caller may be willing to give more specific information on the bomb’s location, components, or method of initiation.
- The bomb threat caller is the best source of information about the bomb. When a bomb threat is called in:
- Keep the caller on the line as long as possible. Ask him/her to repeat the message. Record every word spoken by the person.
- If the caller does not indicate the location of the bomb or the time of possible detonation, ask him/her for this information.
- Inform the caller that the building is occupied and the detonation of a bomb could result in death or serious injury to many innocent people.
- Pay particular attention to background noises, such as motors running, music playing, and any other noise which may give a clue as to the location of the caller.
- Listen closely to the voice (male, female), voice quality (calm, excited), accents, and speech impediments. Immediately after the caller hangs up, report the threat to the police.
- Report the information immediately to the police. Never think that you will be called an alarmist. Remember – every call is true, unless otherwise proven.
- Remain available. Police will want to interview you.
- When a written threat is received, save all materials, including any envelope or container. Once the message is recognized as a bomb threat, further unnecessary handling should be avoided. Every possible effort must be made to retain evidence such as fingerprints, handwriting or typewriting, paper, and postal marks. These will prove essential in tracing the threat and identifying the writer.
In case you come across an object that you think could be a bomb:
- Do not touch or remove the object unless you are duty bound.
- Do not open or puncture the package.
- Do not submerge the packet into water.
- Do not accept identification marks at their face value.
- Do not pass metallic objects over the package.
- Do not direct flashlights directly over the suspected object.
- Do not cut any strings or wires.
- Do not bring the suspected device to a security control room or police station. Always remove the people and not the bomb from scene.
- Do not attempt to open the baggage by hand.
- Don’t be a dead hero.
Remember, you can reconstruct a building or house but you cannot bring someone back to life.
- Do evacuate people immediately to a safe distance.
- Do open all windows & doors.
- Do place sand bags around the suspected object.
- Do inform bomb disposal squad.
- Do inform Fire Brigade, Hospital & Ambulance.
The rule of thumb in all situations is to remain calm and use your common sense. The Police are always there to help you. Be prepared. Be safe.
This information has been obtained from the website of the Mumbai Police – https://mumbaipolice.maharashtra.gov.in