Explosive devices can be highly portable, using vehicles and humans as a means of transport. They are easily detonated from remote locations or by suicide bombers. Bombing incidents can involve multiple devices from small pipe bombs to large vehicle bombs. The incident may involve an attack against a fixed target or a group of people. The incident may be an isolated event or may involve secondary devices, booby traps or suicide bombers.
Incendiary terrorism incidents involve flammable devices that are either stationary or hand-thrown. Incendiary devices are used in approximately 20 to 25 percent of all bombing incidents in the U.S. and can include many different chemicals and flammable or explosive devices.
Actions Before: Determine Risk, Increase Knowledge, Safeguard, Plan
- Determine the disaster risks in your locale.
- Learn warning signs and community alert systems.
- Have a shelter in-place and a mobile disaster supplies kit ready.
- Choose an internal room to shelter, preferably one without windows and on the highest level.
- Create a custom Family Emergency Plan. Make plans for elderly, disabled, and pets.
- Develop an emergency communication plan in case of separation.
- Ask an out-of-state person to serve as the "family contact".
If you receive a telephoned bomb threat, you should do the following:
- Get the FEMA Bomb Threat Telephone Checklist: View/Print PDF
- Get as much information from the caller as possible. Try to ask the following questions:
- When is the bomb going to explode?
- Where is it right now?
- What does it look like?
- What kind of bomb is it?
- What will cause it to explode?
- Did you place the bomb?
- Keep the caller on the line and record everything that is said.
- Notify the police and building management immediately.
Suspicious Packages and Letters
Be wary of suspicious packages and letters. They can contain explosives, chemical or biological agents. Be particularly cautious at your place of employment. Get the FBI Information Bulletin on Suspicious Packages and Letters: View/Print PDF
Some typical characteristics postal inspectors have detected over the years, which ought to trigger suspicion, include parcels that:
- Are unexpected or from someone unfamiliar to you.
- Have no return address or a return address that can’t be verified as legitimate.
- Are marked with restrictive endorsements such as “Personal,” “Confidential,” or “Do not X-ray.”
- Have protruding wires or aluminum foil, strange odors or stains.
- Show a city or state in the postmark that doesn’t match the return address.
- Are of unusual weight given their size or are lopsided or oddly shaped.
- Are marked with threatening language.
- Have inappropriate or unusual labeling.
- Have excessive postage or packaging material, such as masking tape and string.
- Have misspellings of common words.
- Are addressed to someone no longer with your organization or are otherwise outdated.
- Have incorrect titles or titles without a name.
- Are not addressed to a specific person.
- Have hand-written or poorly typed addresses.
With suspicious envelopes and packages other than those that might contain explosives, take these additional steps against possible biological and chemical agents.
- Refrain from eating or drinking in a designated mail handling area.
- Place suspicious envelopes or packages in a plastic bag or some other type of container to prevent leakage of contents. Never sniff or smell suspect mail.
- If you do not have a container, then cover the envelope or package with anything available (e.g., clothing, paper, trash can, etc.) and do not remove the cover.
- Leave the room and close the door or section off the area to prevent others from entering.
- Wash your hands with soap and water to prevent spreading any powder to your face.
- If you are at work, report the incident to your building security official or an available supervisor, who should notify police and other authorities without delay.
- List all people who were in the room or area when this suspicious letter or package was recognized. Give a copy of this list to both the local public health authorities and law enforcement officials for follow-up investigations and advice.
- If you are at home, report the incident to local police.
Actions During: Safety Basics, Evacuation, Shelter in Place
- Get under a sturdy table or desk if things are falling around you. When they stop falling, leave quickly, watching for obviously weakened floors and stairways. As you exit from the building, be especially watchful of falling debris.
- Leave the building as quickly as possible. Call low if there is smoke. Do not stop to retrieve personal possessions or make phone calls.
- Do not use elevators.
- Check for fire and other hazards.
- Once you are out, do not stand in front of windows, glass doors or other potentially hazardous areas.
- Move away from sidewalks or streets to be used by emergency officials or others still exiting the building.
- If you are trapped in debris, use a flashlight, if possible, to signal your location to rescuers.
- Tap on a pipe or wall so rescuers can hear where you are.
- If possible, use a whistle to signal rescuers.
- Shout only as a last resort. Shouting can cause a person to inhale dangerous amounts of dust.
- Avoid unnecessary movement so you don’t kick up dust.
- Cover your nose and mouth with anything you have on hand. (Dense-weave cotton material can act as a good filter. Try to breathe through the material.)
Actions After: Get Disaster Relief, Clean-up, Salvage
In the aftermath of a explosion/incendiary terrorist attack:
- There can be significant numbers of casualties and/or damage to buildings and the infrastructure. So employers need up-to-date information about any medical needs you may have and on how to contact your designated beneficiaries.
- Heavy law enforcement involvement at local, state and federal levels follows a terrorist attack due to the event's criminal nature.
- Health and mental health resources in the affected communities can be strained to their limits, maybe even overwhelmed.
- Extensive media coverage, strong public fear and international implications and consequences can continue for a prolonged period.
- Workplaces and schools may be closed, and there may be restrictions on domestic and international travel.
- You and your family or household may have to evacuate an area, avoiding roads blocked for your safety.
- Clean-up may take many months.
- Ready.gov – Explosive Devices: http://www.ready.gov/explosions
- Ready.gov – Explosive Devices: http://www.ready.gov/explosions
- American Red Cross, CDC – Emergency Preparedness and Response, FEMA – Are You Ready? Guide, Ready.gov, Be a Force of Nature with NOAA’s Weather Ready Nation, National Weather Service Weather Safety
- Reminder: The information contained in this website is for general information purposes only. Please review the Terms and Conditions page for agreement of use.
- Image Source: http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/investigate/terrorism/suspicious-packages-pdf [Accessed August 16, 2013]