Editor’s Note: See author info below.
In these days of suspicious packages, envelopes laced with powders, pipe bomb mailers, and easy access to videos that show how to construct all sorts of explosive devices, every city and town needs to be prepared.
The Annual Explosives Incident Report of 2017 reports that during 2017, the Bomb Arson Tracking System (BATS) captured a total of 14,814 explosives related incidents. However, this number could be vastly underreported. Some bomb threats and bombings can be classified as other felonies to aid prosecution and in the reporting system they are not then tracked as a “bombing” type incident. Also, we don’t know how many incidents go unreported to the BATS database.
The Educator’s School Safety Network reported that in the past school year, every U.S. state has experienced at least one bomb incident. And the 2015-2016 school year saw an unprecedented increase in school-related bomb threat incidents both in the U.S. and throughout the world. In 2016, school-based incidents averaged between 5-10 bomb threats per day.
These statistics just confirm that bomb threat preparedness training should be available for all law enforcement, emergency management and security professionals. But that’s just the first step. The second step is ensuring that there are people in place who have the strategic thinking skills required to make the decisions and take action.
David Buck, a bomb technician, post-blast investigator, trainer and consultant for Houghtons, Inc., offers these six groups of questions he feels first responders should be able to address to help ensure your organization is truly prepared:
- Priorities: What are the main priorities for leadership when implementing a bomb threat response plan?
- Staff and Responders: What human resources are available to assist, how do I reach these people, and how long will it take them to respond to our scene?
- Evacuation: When might evacuation be reasonable? Are there safety principles to understand when directing an evacuation? When might evacuation be unreasonable and, if so, what are the alternatives? How do I educate staff, customers, occupants, students, or their families to prepare them for our response plan?
- Search: Who is best qualified to search and why? What will they be looking for and what should they do if they find it?
- Assessment: Should all threats be treated the same? What are some of the motivations behind persons presenting threats? Should a suspicious person, package, or vehicle be handled as a bomb threat? Is my plan secure for secondary or follow-on threats?
- Keep It Simple: Do we have any simple tools to guide us in our response to a bomb threat?
In addition to assigning someone who is proficient in strategic thinking, it is also advisable to have the right equipment in place. First responders faced with chemical weapons or an unknown chemical substance require reliable chemical testing equipment for rapid identification. There are portable instruments that enable testing and explosives and explosive precursor identification right in the hazard zone and provide specific, actionable data for a quick and confident response.
So to be truly prepared, have a plan, have a plan that is coordinated by someone who is a strategic thinker, and have the tools to do the job.
Editor’s Note: The content for much of this article was provided by Houghtons, Inc., a small privately held company that provides training, test methods and technical assistance to public and private sector organizations responsible for emergency response. You can contact principal Rick Houghton at https://hazardid.com.
For more unknown substance identification information, visit the Safety and Security Threat Detection section of our website.