Bombs and Bomb Threats – A Refresher

As a professional you depend on our training and not your emotions. In the past couple days, we have observed the location of at least nine explosive devices in the United States. As with any situation where aggressive behavior is displayed through terroristic acts or violent threats, emotions are charged. As my good friend, Dr. Richard Kobetz would say, “it’s an old bottle of wine with a new label”. To this end we adjust our methods of mitigation in these situations as required by contemporary times, having said this, we still look to historical protocols that have worked and we stick with them. So, to assist with focusing on what matters I thought I would provide a quick refresher as to what anyone should be aware of and what you should be doing on a daily basis.

During times of increased awareness of threats people are often distracted by following media reports as it relates to the investigation of recent attacks or attempted attacks. Do not allow yourself to be distracted, law enforcement and more often the ATF and FBI will investigate previous incidents and will process through the investigation in a very efficient manner. In today’s times we are also inundated with information from Social Networks, this too can be a distraction – again, do not allow yourself to be distracted from what measures you should be taking in protecting yourself and observations you should be making in around areas you may occupy.

First and foremost, do not let your emotions of fear and anger get the best of you, instead be vigilant in your personal protection. The incidents reported and the packages that have been found have the appearance of what we should be looking for in a suspected package, in fact the images I have seen could be called textbook images of a suspicious package.

Photo of Letter Sent to CNN


Training Sample of Suspicious Letter and Parcel

Training Sample of Suspicious Letter and Parcel


What are some of the observations you should make when looking at envelopes or parcels:

1. Foreign mail, air-mail, special delivery
2. Restrictive marketing, such as confidential, personal, etc.
3. Excessive or inadequate postage
4. Handwritten or poorly typed address
5. Incorrect titles
6. Titles but no names
7. Misspelling of common words
8. Rub-on or blocked lettering
9. Oily stains
10. Visual distractions such as money or pornography
11. Discoloration
12. Smell
13. No return address
14. Excessive weight
15. Contents are stiff
16. Strange smells, particularly almond or other suspicious odors
17. Lop-sided or uneven envelope
18. Protruding wires or tinfoil
19. Excessive securing materials, such as masking tape, string, etc.

Do Not Underestimate the Size of Any Object – Video

What should you be observant of when receiving a telephoned bomb threat:

1. Time call received
2. Time call ended
3. What exactly did the caller say
4. Questions to ask

  • Where is the bomb?
  • What does it look like?
  • When is the bomb going to explode?
  • What kind of bomb is it?
  • What will cause it to explode?
  • Did you place the bomb?
  • Why are you doing this?
  • What is your location?
  • What is your name?
  • What is your address?
  • What is your phone number?
  • Are you calling from a pay phone?

5. Sex of caller
6. Age of caller
7. Report call immediately to authorities. Ensure this can get accomplished on a second line
8. Caller’s voice and language appeared:

  • Loud
  • Slow
  • Normal
  • Raspy
  • Nasal
  • Clearing throat
  • Cracking voice
  • Accent
  • Angry
  • Rapid
  • Laughter
  • Distinct
  • Stutter
  • Deep
  • Deep Breathing
  • Disguised
  • Excited
  • Soft
  • Crying
  • Slurred
  • Lisp
  • Ragged
  • Foreign
  • Familiar
  • Calm
  • Well spoken- Educated
  • Irrational
  • Message read by threat maker
  • Foul
  • Taped
  • Incoherent
  • Code words used

9. If voice is familiar, whom did it sound like?
10. Background sounds

  • Street noises
  • PA system
  • Motor
  • Automobile
  • Cellular phone
  • Factory machinery
  • Clear long distance
  • Crockery
  • Office machinery
  • Animal noises
  • House noises
  • Music
  • Booth
  • Voices
  • Static
  • Other

11. Number where received
12. Person Receiving Call ______________________________
13. Location of Person Receiving Call ______________________________________________

Locating Unknown Objects

1. Clear the area and from a safe location immediately call 911. Refrain from using cellular phones or portable radios near suspicious packages.

2. Do not attempt to locate, move or disarm any suspicious items. Inform authorities of the item. Alert others to stay clear of it.

3. Follow any instructions received from law enforcement.

4. Isolate package/letter and other potentially contaminated items and secure room to prevent others from entering the area. Do not shake, open, smell or taste any substance on or within the object. If you have already touched the object, place it in a sealed plastic container or bag. If exposed, immediately wash hands and exposed skin thoroughly with soap and water and seek emergency medical attention.

5. If a hazard is imminent or ordered by emergency personnel, evacuate the building using the nearest available exit. Follow Evacuation Procedures if one is so ordered. If disabled personnel cannot safely evacuate the building, assist to the nearest stairwell away from bomb threat area and follow Evacuations of People with Disabilities. Evacuation above and below the object should take place as well.

6. Once outside, move to a clear area that is at least 500 feet away from the affected building. Keep streets and walkways clear for emergency vehicles and crews. The person discovering the threat should provide information to emergency personnel.

7. Do not return to an evacuated building unless authorized by emergency command personnel.

8. Emergency Personnel will determine if, how, and where the suspicious package should be transported or disposed.

Suspicious People and Activities

  • People in buildings or grounds that do not appear to be conducting legitimate business.
  • Unauthorized personnel in restricted, sensitive, or private areas. Unauthorized photography.
  • Unauthorized persons requesting sensitive information such as security information.
  • Abandoned or suspicious vehicles.
  • Unexpected or unfamiliar delivery trucks.
  • Vehicles arriving and being left behind at odd hours.
  • Unauthorized individuals near or tampering with ventilation equipment.

Being observant and knowing what you should be on the lookout for is important to your safety and survival. Remain vigilant and immediately report observations and findings to authorities in your community or organization.


Bill Peeler is the President and Founder of Peeler Group International.


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