Explosive Threats: Technologies and Techniques

January 30, 2008

Past, Present, and Future in Explosive Detection
 The number of options available to terrorists is far greater today than ever before, but the most widely used, and therefore the most significant threat for Counter-Terrorism and security professionals worldwide, is exactly the same as it was centuries ago: explosives. The threat compounds and methods of delivery have evolved over time, as have the technology and techniques to detect them. In many respects, it is a high-tech game of cat and mouse.

Explosives have been around for centuries: the Chinese, for example, used them in the form of black powder to make weapons which propelled arrows from bamboo tubes. Black powder is still in use today as a propellant in some firearms as well as in fireworks. The evolution of explosives has always been driven by need, technology, and serendipity. As an example of the latter, Christian Schonbein discovered guncotton, also known as nitrocellulose, as the result of an accidental explosion. Ascanio Sobrero created nitroglycerin (NG), the first liquid explosive. Alfred Nobel is the inventor of dynamite, a more stable formulation of nitroglycerin which is safer to handle and use a big step for both commercial and military applications. TriNitroToluene (TNT) has always been a widely used military explosive and is still found in combination with the “plastic” explosives RDX and PETN. Plastic explosives first found use with the military during World War II.

The Situation Now
Let us fast forward to the world we presently live in. It is one of suicide bombers wearing vests, even shoes, which have been made into improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Do not forget car and truck bombs, and the classic pipe bomb. Today the threat list is much greater and varied than ever before. This is not limited to the type of explosives used but the manner in which they are delivered and deployed, as well. It is not too long ago that Nitrates, Peroxides, and myriad other homemade explosives were not even considered threats. However, recent events and the subsequent use or attempted uses of these kinds of explosives have had a great effect upon the development of explosives detection technology and overall security measures worldwide.

Explosive threats have most definitely evolved in size and in scope, and in response to these changes so have the techniques and technologies for their detection. One of the first explosive “detection systems” developed and still utilized today is the no-tech canine. Dogs, in conjunction with their handlers, have been trained and used by the military for years as a simple yet extremely effective explosives detection system. Some of the earliest technical detection systems were laboratory instruments modified to be used in a security environment. This trend is still present, with many new and novel technologies coming out of academic, industrial, and government labs. Explosives detection systems are usually a bulk or trace detectors. Bulk detectors detect bulk quantities of explosives while trace detectors are able to detect the invisible residues of explosives on vehicles, persons, packages, mail, baggage, and other items handled by a person who has been exposed to explosives. In general, most bulk detectors today screen cargo and baggage. The most common use of trace detectors is in aviation security for carry-on bags, checked bags and cargo. Each technology has its place in an overall security plan and the effective design of a screening facility and checkpoint.

Threats and Technology
One needs to balance various threats with numerous technology factors. These factors are comprised of, but not limited to, system effectiveness, cost, throughput, maintenance, size, complexity, cast of ownership, safety, privacy issues, public perception, and the ability to deal with new forms of threats. There exists no silver bullet. There is no perfect explosives detection system. Each detection system is a tool security professionals will find necessary to have in their toolbox. Having the right tool for the job it is expected to perform is extremely important. One size does not fit all. This is why a variety of technologies is the only way to establish an effective explosives detection program which must also include appropriate screening policies, procedures, and checkpoint design. Detection programs vary according to the mission. End users of explosives detection technologies need to identify explosive threats based upon available historic data as well as multiple sources of current intelligence. The most common approach includes manual searches, metal detectors, x-ray machines, explosive trace detectors (ETDs), canines, and other technologies used in an overall security systems approach for explosives detection.

The above technologies range in price from under ten thousand to over one million dollars. The only detector that detects both trace and bulk explosives is still the canine.  “Where is Rover when I need him to come over?”

Most security checkpoints incorporate a conventional x-ray system in which a human operator is essentially the explosives detector. There are also automated machines, which detect the presence of possible explosive material and display an image of the potential explosive to the operator. Presently the only technology to receive certification for the detection of explosives by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is Computer Tomography (CT), a system based on x-ray technology. It is important to keep in mind that at the present time, no systems detect other possible security threats such as guns, knives, and ammunition.

Today the most widely deployed trace detectors are Ion Mobility Spectrometry (lMS) based. Recently a new Surface Acoustic Wave (SAW) and Explosives Detection Chemistry (EDC) systems have appeared on the market. The SAW is small and easy to use and maintain. Explosives Detection Chemistry (EDC) quite possibly has the greatest potential due to its ability to detect a very long and impressive list of compounds. It is also easy to use, has high sensitivity, high reliability, and a very wide dynamic range. Its low instance of false alarms, extremely high probability of detection, modest price and low operating costs makes it one to keep a close eye on. There have been attempts to bring Mass Spectrometry (MS) out of the lab and into the field for security applications. MS holds great promise for a next generation system, but there are still challenges to overcome before it can be considered a reliable detection device.

Fluorescence systems are extremely sensitive to TNT and its derivatives, and this author is anxiously waiting to play with a new and improved device which claims to have the ability to detect other threat compounds as well. Chemiluminescence came out of the lab and into the field for a short time but has now been returned to the lab for further work. Electron Capture Detectors (ECD) emerged from the laboratory many years ago and into explosives detector portals but have a limited capability and future. Attempts have been made to employ other technologies such as Field Ion Spectrometers (FIS), Gas Chromatography (GC)/Mass Spectrometry and Thermo-Redox, but so far they have been limited in their capability and have not met with much commercial success.

The first round of nuclear techniques and technologies also did not fare well. Their performance was limited and in addition to high cost, public perception was not good. There are presently a number of novel nuclear systems being developed that may prove very capable as stand-alone systems or as part of an integrated solution. Both Microwave and Millimeter Wave portals for screening people are in the very early phases of testing, deployment and adoption into security operations. Research and Development to improve these technologies will continue well into the future. All of this technology is meaningless without sufficient training, maintenance, and proper use by security personnel. Human factors can either enhance or drastically reduce the effectiveness of any system and play a vital role in their success.

There are things that every person within an organization needs to be aware of when designing a security checkpoint. The most important thing is confidence in the equipment, systems, and the Concept of Operation (ConOps) in place. ConOps are required and must be vigorously enforced. The best way to make certain that ConOps, policies, procedures, equipment, and security personnel are all working properly is to test the entire system. These “Red Team” exercises can be simple or complex. Depending on the situation you, your staff, or an outside contractor with training aids or real threats can conduct these exercises. Experience in conducting “Red Team” exercises illustrate the point that the equipment is typically not the weak link. The unfortunate fact is that when a real threat actually presents itself, security personnel panic, and the ConOps which were so carefully crafted and meticulously taught go out the window, with the result that the entire security system breaks down. In other words, “Green lights don’t mean good to go!”

A Look into the Future
What predictions can be made today with respect to explosives threats and technologies of the future? There will certainly be new types of explosives, both developed and improvised, which will be delivered in even more novel and ever-evolving ways. For every system and device we implement, the bad guys will find a way to deflect and evade detection, and the game of cat and mouse will escalate as they try to keep one step ahead by changing the type of explosives they use and the method in which they are delivered, On the technology side of the equation, there are many techniques in development at this time. Some are almost ready for field-testing while others are still years away. Future systems include the potential for standoff detection of explosives as well as the incorporation of multiple sensors in a “suite” of technologies and techniques which afford detection not only of the “E” in CBRNE, but all of the CBRNE components as well. Peering into the author’s crystal ball, the future will see not only the screening of persons, vehicles, baggage, mail, and the like for explosives, but also the continuous monitoring of the environment where these systems are located for Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear (CBRN) threats. All of this data will be transmitted hack to a command and control center via a wired or wireless network so that security personnel, law enforcement, and even first responders will have immediate access to information in case of an adverse event. More systems will be automated, which will reduce manpower requirements. Complex or multiple systems and/or applicable components of larger systems, will be customized and integrated into a total security solution package according to the specific needs of the end user. As the technology improves, a customized system will afford the user increased detection capabilities and higher probability of detection and lower false alarms. “False positives you can live with through good ConOps, but false negatives can kill you and others!”

It is an exciting time in the field of explosives detection and technology. We are increasing our ability to reliably detect the ever increasing variety of explosives and in the not so distant future the technology will catch up with the need. Perfecting our ability to identify and deter the method of delivery will prove to be the bigger and more elusive challenge and one which we may never be able to fully solve.


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Bomb Threats and Phyiscal Security Planning Guide

January 24, 2008

Bomb threats, responding to bomb threats and security against bomb incidents all require physical security planning which make the Bomb Threats and Physical Security Planning Guide an excellent security resource. Please forward the Bomb Threats and Physical Security Planning Guide to any agency or facility that may benefit by its content.

If there is one point that cannot be overemphasized, it is the value of being prepared. Do not allow a bomb incident to catch you by surprise. By developing a bomb incident plan and considering possible bomb incidents in your physical security plan, you can reduce the potential for personal injury and property damage.

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Bombs can be constructed to look like almost anything and can be placed or delivered in any number of ways. The probability of finding a bomb that looks like the stereotypical bomb is almost nonexistent. The only common denominator that exists among bombs is that they are designed or intended to explode. Most bombs are homemade and are limited in their design only by the imagination of, and resources available to, the bomber. Remember, when searching for a bomb, suspect anything that looks unusual. Let the trained bomb technician determine what is or is not a bomb.

Bomb Threats
Bomb threats are delivered in a variety of ways. The majority of threats are called in to the target. Occasionally these calls are through a third party. Sometimes a threat is communicated in writing or by a recording.

Two logical explanations for reporting a bomb threat are:  1. The caller has definite knowledge or believes that an explosive or incendiary bomb has been or will be placed and he/she wants to minimize personal injury or property damage. The caller may be the person who placed the device or someone who has become aware of such information.  2. The caller wants to create an atmosphere of anxiety and panic which will, in turn, result in a disruption of the normal activities at the facility where the device is purportedly placed.

Whatever the reason for the report, there will certainly be a reaction to it. Through proper planning, the wide variety of potentially uncontrollable reactions can be greatly reduced.

Why Prepare?
If you accept the two aforementioned explanations for reporting that a bomb is about to go off, you can better prepare to foil the bomber or threat maker.

Through proper preparation, you can reduce the accessibility of your business or building and identify those areas that can be “hardened” against the potential bomber. This will limit the amount of time lost to searching, if you determine a search is necessary. If a bomb incident occurs, proper planning will instill confidence in the leadership, reinforce the notion that those in charge do care, and reduce the potential for personal injury and property loss.

Proper planning can also reduce the threat of panic, the most contagious of all human emotions. Panic is sudden, excessive, unreasoning, infectious terror. Once a state of panic has been reached, the potential for injury and property damage is greatly increased. In the context of a bomb threat, panic is the ultimate achievement of the caller.

Be prepared! There is no excuse for not taking every step necessary to meet the threat.

How To Prepare
In preparing to cope with a bomb incident, it is necessary to develop two separate but interdependent plans, namely a physical security plan and a bomb incident plan.

Physical security provides for the protection of property, personnel, facilities, and material against unauthorized entry, trespass, damage, sabotage, or other illegal or criminal acts. The physical security plan deals with prevention and control of access to the building. In most instances, some form of physical security may be already in existence, although not necessarily intended to prevent a bomb attack.

The bomb incident plan provides detailed procedures to be implemented when a bombing attack is executed or threatened. In planning for the bomb incident, a definite chain of command or line of authority must be established. Only by using an established organization and procedures can the bomb incident be handled with the least risk to all concerned. A clearly defined line of authority will instill confidence and avoid panic.

Establishing a chain of command is easy if there is a simple office structure, one business, one building. However, if a complex situation exists, a multi-occupant building for example, a representative from each occupant entity should attend the planning conference. A leader should be appointed and a clear line of succession delineated. This chain of command should be printed and circulated to all concerned parties.

In planning, you should designate a command center to be located in the switchboard room or other focal point of telephone or radio communications. The management personnel assigned to operate the center should have the authority to decide whatever action should be taken during the threat. Only those with assigned duties should be permitted in the center. Make some provision for alternates in the event someone is absent when a threat is received. Obtain an updated blueprint or floor plan of your building and maintain it in the command center.

Contact the police department, fire department, or local government agencies to determine if any assistance is available to you for developing your physical security plan or bomb incident plan. If possible, have police and/or fire department representatives and members of your staff inspect the building for areas where explosives are likely to be concealed. (Make a checklist of these areas for inclusion in command center materials.) Determine whether there is a bomb disposal unit available, how to contact the unit, and under what conditions it is activated. In developing your bomb incident plan, you must also ascertain whether the bomb disposal unit, in addition to disarming and removing the explosives, will assist in searching the building in the event of a threat.

Training is essential to deal properly with a bomb threat incident. Instruct all personnel, especially those at the telephone switchboard, in what to do if a bomb threat is received. Be absolutely certain that all personnel assigned to the command center are aware of their duties. The positive aspects of planning will be lost if the leadership is not apparent. It is also very important to organize and train an evacuation unit which will be responsive to the command center and has a clear understanding of the importance of its role.

We have suggested that the command center be located near the switchboard or focal point of communications. It is critical that lines of communication be established between the command center and the search or evacuation teams. The center must have the flexibility to keep up with the search team progress. In a large facility, if the teams go beyond the communications network, the command center must have the mobility to maintain contact and track search or evacuation efforts.

Security Against Bomb Incidents
We mentioned earlier that, in dealing with bomb incidents or potential bomb incidents, two interrelated plans must be developed, the bomb incident plan and the physical security plan. Heretofore, we have primarily addressed the bomb incident plan. Now, before continuing with that plan, we will discuss security measures as they apply to “hardening” against the bomb attack.

Most commercial structures and individual residences already have some security in place, planned or unplanned, realized or not. Locks on windows and doors, outside lights, etc., are all designed and installed to contribute toward the security of a facility and the protection of its occupants.

In considering measures to increase security for your building or office, it is highly recommended that you contact your local police department for guidance regarding a specific plan for your facility. 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. 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 employee vehicles should be parked closest to your facility 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, a security patrol should be employed to check them regularly.

A highly visible security patrol can be significant deterrent. Even if this “patrol” is only one security guard/night guard, he/she is optimally utilized outside the building. If an interior guard is utilized, consider the installation of closed-circuit television cameras that cover exterior building perimeters.

Have an adequate burglar alarm system installed by a reputable company that can service and properly maintain the equipment. Post signs indicating that such a system is in place.

Entrance/exit doors with hinges and hinge pins on the inside to prevent removal should be installed. Solid wood or sheet metal faced doors provide extra integrity that a hollow-core wooden door cannot provide. A steel door frame that properly fits the door is as important as the construction of the door.

The ideal security situation is a building with no windows. However, bars, grates, heavy mesh screens, or steel shutters over windows offer good protection from otherwise unwanted entry. It is important that the openings in the protective coverings are not too large. Otherwise, a bomb may be introduced into the building while the bomber remains outside. Floor vents, transoms, and skylights should also be covered. Please note that fire safety considerations preclude the use of certain window coverings. Municipal ordinances should be researched and safety considered before any of these renovations are undertaken.

Controls should be established for positively identifying personnel who are authorized access to critical areas and for denying access to unauthorized personnel. 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. If keys cannot be accounted for, locks should be changed.

Good housekeeping is also vital. Trash or dumpster areas should remain free of debris. A bomb or device can easily be concealed in the trash. Combustible materials should be properly disposed of, or protected if further use is anticipated.

Install detection devices at all entrances and closed-circuit television in those areas previously identified as likely places where a bomb may be placed. This, coupled with the posting of signs indicating such measures are in place, is a good deterrent.

We recognize the necessity for businesses to maintain good public relations. Corporate responsibility however, also encompasses the safety and protection of the public. 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. The public is becoming more accustomed to routine security checks and will readily accept these minor inconveniences.

Perhaps entrances and exits can be modified with a minimal expenditure to channel all visitors through someone at 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. Employees at these reception desks could contact the person to be visited and advise him/her that a visitor, by name, is in the lobby. The person to be visited may decide to come to the lobby to ascertain that the purpose of the visit is valid. A system for signing out when the individual departs could be integrated into this procedure.

Such a procedure may result in complaints from the public. If the reception desk clerk explains to the visitor that these procedures were implemented in his/her best interest and safety, the complaints would be reduced. The placement of a sign at the reception desk informing visitors of the need for safety is another option.

 Responding to Bomb Threats
We mentioned earlier that, in dealing with bomb incidents or potential bomb incidents, two interrelated plans must be developed, the bomb incident plan and the physical security plan. Heretofore, we have primarily addressed the bomb incident plan. Now, before continuing with that plan, we will discuss security measures as they apply to “hardening” against the bomb attack.

Most commercial structures and individual residences already have some security in place, planned or unplanned, realized or not. Locks on windows and doors, outside lights, etc., are all designed and installed to contribute toward the security of a facility and the protection of its occupants.

In considering measures to increase security for your building or office, it is highly recommended that you contact your local police department for guidance regarding a specific plan for your facility. 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.

Decision Time
The most serious of all decisions to be made by management in the event of a bomb threat is whether to evacuate the building. In many cases, this decision may have already been made during the development of the bomb incident plan. Management may pronounce a carte blanche policy that, in the event of a bomb threat, total evacuation will be effective immediately. This decision circumvents the calculated risk and demonstrates a deep concern for the safety of personnel in the building. However, such a decision can result in costly loss of time.

Essentially, there are three alternatives when faced with a bomb threat:  1. Ignore the threat.  2. Evacuate immediately.  3. Search and evacuate if warranted.

Ignoring the threat completely can result in some problems. While a statistical argument can be made that very few bomb threats are real, it cannot be overlooked that bombs have been located in connection with threats. If employees learn that bomb threats have been received and ignored, it could result in morale problems and have a long-term adverse effect on your business. Also, there is the possibility that if the bomb threat caller feels that he/she is being ignored, he/she may go beyond the threat and actually plant a bomb.

Evacuating immediately on every bomb threat is an alternative that on face value appears to be the preferred approach. However, the negative factors inherent in this approach must be considered. The obvious result of immediate evacuation is the disruptive effect on your business. If the bomb threat caller knows that your policy is to evacuate each time a call is made, he/she can continually call and force your business to a standstill. An employee, knowing that the policy is to evacuate immediately, may make a threat in order to get out of work. A student may use a bomb threat to avoid a class or miss a test. Also, a bomber wishing to cause personal injuries could place a bomb near an exit normally used to evacuate and then call in the threat.

Initiating a search after a threat is received and evacuating a building after a suspicious package or device is found is the third, and perhaps most desired, approach. It is certainly not as disruptive as an immediate evacuation and will satisfy the requirement to do something when a threat is received. If a device is found, the evacuation can be accomplished expeditiously while at the same time avoiding the potential danger areas of the bomb.

An evacuation unit consisting of management personnel should be organized and trained. The organization and training of this unit should be coordinated with the development of the bomb incident plan, as well as with all tenants of a building.

The evacuation unit should be trained in how to evacuate the building during a bomb threat. You should consider priority of evacuation, e.g., evacuation by floor level. Evacuate the floor levels above and below the danger area in order to remove those persons from danger as quickly as possible. Training in this type of evacuation is usually available from police, fire or other units within the community.

You may also train the evacuation unit in search techniques, or you may prefer a separate search unit. Volunteer personnel should be solicited for this function. Assignment of search wardens, team leaders, etc., can be employed. To be proficient in searching the building, search personnel must be thoroughly familiar with all hallways, rest rooms, false ceiling areas, and every location in the building where an explosive or incendiary device may be concealed. When police officers or firefighters arrive at the building, the contents and the floor plan will be unfamiliar to them if they have not previously reconnoitered the facility. Thus, it is extremely important that the evacuation or search unit be thoroughly trained and familiar with the floor plan of the building and immediate outside areas. When a room or particular area is searched, it should be marked or sealed with a piece of tape and reported to the supervisor of that area.

The evacuation or search unit should be trained only in evacuation and search techniques and not in the techniques of neutralizing, removing or otherwise having contact with the device. If a device is located, it should not be disturbed. However, its location should be well marked and a route back to the device noted.

Search Teams
It is advisable to use more than one individual to search any area or room, no matter how small. Searches can be conducted by supervisory personnel, area occupants or trained explosive search teams. There are advantages and disadvantages to each method of staffing the search teams.

Using supervisory personnel to search is a rapid approach and causes little disturbance. There will be little loss of employee working time, but a morale problem may develop if it is discovered that a bomb threat has been received and workers were left unaware. Using a supervisor to search will usually not be as thorough because of his/her unfamiliarity with many areas and his/her desire to get on with business.

Using area occupants to search their own areas is the best method for a rapid search. The occupants’ concern for their own safety will contribute toward a more thorough search. Furthermore, the personnel conducting the search are familiar with what does or does not belong in a particular area. Using occupants to search will result in a shorter loss of work time than if all were evacuated prior to search by trained teams. Using the occupants to search can have a positive effect on morale, given a good training program to develop confidence. Of course, this would require the training of an entire work force, and ideally the performance of several practical training exercises. One drawback of this search method is the increased danger to un-evacuated workers.

The search conducted by a trained team is the best for safety, morale and thoroughness, though it does take the most time. Using a trained team will result in a significant loss of production time. It is a slow operation that requires comprehensive training and practice.

The decision as to who should conduct searches lies with management, and should be considered and incorporated into the bomb incident plan.

Search Techniques
The following room search technique is based on the use of a two-person searching team. There are many minor variations possible in searching a room. The following contains only the basic techniques.

When the two-person search team enters the room to be searched, they should first move to various parts of the room and stand quietly with their eyes closed and listen for a clockwork device. Frequently, a clockwork mechanism can be quickly detected without use of special equipment. Even if no clockwork mechanism is detected, the team is now aware of the background noise level within the room itself.

Background noise or transferred sound is always disturbing during a building search. If a ticking sound is heard but cannot be located, one might become unnerved. The ticking sound may come from an unbalanced air-conditioner fan several floors away or from a dripping sink down the hall. Sound will transfer through air-conditioning ducts, along water pipes, and through walls. One of the most difficult buildings to search is one that has steam or hot water heat. This type of building will constantly thump, crack, chatter, and tick due to the movement of the steam or hot water through the pipes and the expansion and contraction of the pipes. Background noise may also include outside traffic sounds, rain, and wind.

The individual in charge of the room searching team should look around the room and determine how the room is to be divided for searching and to what height the first searching sweep should extend. The first searching sweep will cover all items resting on the floor up to the selected height.

You should divide the room into two virtually equal parts. This equal division should be based on the number and type of objects in the room to be searched and not on the size of the room. An imaginary line is then drawn between two objects in the room; e.g., the edge of the window on the north wall to the floor lamp on the south wall.

Room Searching Sweeps – First Room Searching Sweep
Look at the furniture or objects in the room and determine the average height of the majority of items resting on the floor. In an average room, this height usually includes table or desk tops and chair backs. The first searching height usually covers the items in the room up to hip height.

After the room has been divided and a searching height has been selected, both individuals go to one end of the room division line and start from a back-to-back position. This is the starting point, and the same point will be used on each successive searching sweep. Each person now starts searching his/her way around the room, working toward the other person, checking all items resting on the floor around the wall area of the room. When the two individuals meet, they will have completed a “wall sweep.” They should then work together and check all items in the middle of the room up to the selected hip height, including the floor under the rugs. This first searching sweep should also include those items which may be mounted on or in the walls, such as air-conditioning ducts, baseboard heaters, and built-in wall cupboards, if these fixtures are below hip height.

The first searching sweep usually consumes the most time and effort. During all the searching sweeps, use the electronic or medical stethoscope on walls, furniture items, and floors.

Second Room Searching Sweep
The individual in charge again looks at the furniture or objects in the room and determines the height of the second searching sweep. This height is usually from the hip to the chin or top of the head. The two persons return to the starting point and repeat the searching technique at the second selected searching height. This sweep usually covers pictures hanging on the walls, built bookcases, and tall table lamps.

Third Room Searching Sweep
When the second searching sweep is completed, the person in charge again determines the next searching height, usually from the chin or the top of the head up to the ceiling. The third sweep is then made. This sweep usually covers high mounted air-conditioning ducts and hanging light fixtures.

Fourth Room Searching Sweep
If the room has a false or suspended ceiling, the fourth sweep involves investigation of this area. Check flush or ceiling-mounted light fixtures, air conditioning or ventilation ducts, sound or speaker systems, electrical wiring, and structural frame members.

Have a sign or marker indicating “Search Completed” conspicuously posted in the area. Place a piece of colored Scotch tape across the door and door jamb approximately 2 feet above floor level if the use of signs is not practical.

The room searching technique can be expanded. The same basic technique can be applied to search any enclosed area. Encourage the use of common sense or logic in searching. If a guest speaker at a convention has been threatened, common sense would indicate searching the speakers platform and microphones first, but always return to the searching technique. Do not rely on random or spot checking of only logical target areas. The bomber may not be a logical person.

In conclusion, the following steps should be taken in order to search a room:  1. Divide the area and select a search height. 2. Start from the bottom and work up.  3. Start back-to-back and work toward each other.  4. Go around the walls and proceed toward the center of the room.

Suspicious Objects Located
It is imperative that personnel involved in a search be instructed that their only mission is to search for and report suspicious objects. Under no circumstances should anyone move, jar or touch a suspicious object or anything attached to it. The removal or disarming of a bomb must be left to the professionals in explosive ordnance disposal.

When a suspicious object is discovered, the following procedures are recommended:  1. Report the location and an accurate description of the object to the appropriate warden. This information should be relayed immediately to the command center, which will, notify the police and fire departments, and rescue squad. These officers should be met and escorted to the scene.  2. If absolutely necessary, place sandbags or mattresses, never metal shields, around the suspicious object. Do not attempt to cover the object.  3. Identify the danger area, and block it off with a clear zone of at least 300 feet, including floors below and above the object.  4. Check to see that all doors and windows are open to minimize primary damage from blast and secondary damage from fragmentation.  5. Evacuate the building.  6. Do not permit re-entry into the building until the device has been removed/disarmed, and the building declared safe for re-entry.

Handling of the News Media
It is of paramount importance that all inquiries from the news media be directed to one individual appointed as spokesperson. All other persons should be instructed not to discuss the situation with outsiders, especially the news media. The purpose of this provision is to furnish the news media with accurate information and to see that additional bomb threat calls are not precipitated by irresponsible statements from uninformed sources.

Search Recap
The individual in charge again looks at the furniture or objects in the room and determines the height of the second searching sweep. This height is usually from the hip to the chin or top of the head. The two persons return to the starting point and repeat the searching technique at the second selected searching height. This sweep usually covers pictures hanging on the walls, built bookcases, and tall table lamps.

Bomb Incident Plan Checklist
1. Designate a chain of command.  2. Establish a command center.  3. Decide what primary and alternate communications will be used.  4. Establish clearly how and by whom a bomb threat will be evaluated.  5. Decide what procedures will be followed when a bomb threat is received or device discovered.  6. Determine to what extent the available bomb squad will assist and at what point the squad will respond. 7. Provide an evacuation plan with enough flexibility to avoid a suspected danger area.  8. Designate search teams.  9. Designate areas to be searched.  10. Establish techniques to be utilized during search.  11. Establish a procedure to report and track progress of the search and a method to lead qualified bomb technicians to a suspicious package.  12. Have a contingency plan available if a bomb should go off.  13. Establish a simple-to-follow procedure for the person receiving the bomb threat.  14. Review your physical security plan in conjunction with the development of your bomb incident plan.

Command Center Checklist
1. Designate a primary location and an alternate location.  2. Assign personnel and designate decision making authority.  3. Establish a method for tracking search teams.  4. Maintain a list of likely target areas.  5. Maintain a blueprint of floor diagrams in the center.  6. Establish primary and secondary methods of communication. (Caution-the use of two-way radios during a search can cause premature detonation of an electric blasting cap.)  7. Formulate a plan for establishing a command center, if a threat is received after normal work hours. 8. Maintain a roster of all necessary telephone numbers.


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Protecting Americans and Facilities from Improvised Explosive Devices

January 24, 2008

 Pipe Bombs and other Improvised Explosive Devices (lED) pose a serious threat to federal, state, and local government facilities considering how easily and inexpensively they can be put together. Schools, shopping malls, stadiums and other public places are also potential targets for terrorist attacks considering how freely people can walk around and through these types of facilities.

To protect people and facilities from terrorist attacks involving explosive devices starts with a basic understanding of a bomb. People must recognize that a bomb is usually made to look like everyday widgets and that stereotypical bombs are virtually nonexistent. The only common denominator that exists with all explosive devices is that they are intended to explode. For this reason, it is important to suspect anything that looks unusual and to let a trained bomb technician determine what is or is not an actual bomb.

Hard targets such as airports, government facilities, and military bases have implemented technologies such as X-ray screening systems, explosive trace detectors, and metal detectors, to name a few, to increase security at their facilities. Additionally, perimeters and security checkpoints are usually established to reduce their vulnerability to attacks using explosives devices. Unfortunately, soft target, such as hospitals, schools, shopping malls and other public places often do not have the same resources to set up perimeters or security checkpoints, therefore, increasing their vulnerability to this type of terrorist attack. However, one measure both hard and soft targets can take is to implement both a physical security plan and a bomb incident plan.

Physical security plans are generally designed to prevent or control access into a facility for the purpose of protecting personnel, property, and the building from unauthorized entry, sabotage, or other illegal or criminal acts. It is understood that a facility with no established perimeters or security checkpoints must implement a broader security plan to minimize their vulnerability and mitigate the effects of a terrorist attack. Contact your police department, fire department, and local government agencies to determine if one or all of them can assist you with the development of a physical security plan for your facility.

Bomb incident plans are developed to provide detailed procedures to be implemented during an actual bombing or when a facility has received a bomb threat. The most important element of a bomb incident plan is to create a chain of command or line of authority for the purpose of instilling confidence and avoiding panic. After outlining the responsibilities of each member in the chain of command, a primary command center should be designated along with a secondary command center in the event the primary post is destroyed during the attack. This information needs to be documented, circulated, posted and readily available in adequate quantities. Due to the sensitive nature of a bomb incident plan you should contact your local ATF office, police department, and fire department for assistance in developing an effective plan. For additional information on responding to and managing bomb threats or bomb incident planning, click here.

Establishing physical security and bomb incident plans are important, however, testing the plans with periodic scheduled and unscheduled drills can help to determine their range of effectiveness during an actual attack. Drills expose weaknesses within the plans, thus providing the established chain of command an opportunity to make the necessary changes in a calm and controlled environment. Once the appropriate changes have been implemented, test them again, and so forth.

Aside from ongoing drills, awareness training programs should also be scheduled periodically to reinforce the basics. Simple things could make a difference, like noticing individuals wearing clothes unsuitable for that time of year, observing a person trying to blend into a group that they clearly don’t belong to, or noticing an object protruding from a person’s clothing. Other things to look for are persons acting very nervous or profusely sweating, someone repeatedly steering clear of security personnel, an individual walking slowly while constantly glancing over both shoulders, or someone who is running in a suspicious manner.

Without awareness training programs these warning signs will most likely go undetected or unreported. Posting clearly visible signs that disclose where and how to report suspicious activity will enable security personnel to gather pertinent intelligence to possible thwart an attack, and act as a deterrent. These signs should be placed at entrances, exits and throughout the facility.

Even the best physical security plans, bomb incident plans, and awareness training programs cannot protect a facility from an extremist or terrorist planting an explosive device inside a public mailbox or trash receptacles. For this reason, public mailboxes are either being removed completely or being strategically placed at safe distances away from areas where large groups of people pass or gather. Trash receptacles, though, cannot be as easily removed or strategically located because of their waste management function, which is why they are recognized as one of the easiest places for a terrorist to conceal a bomb in a public or private facility.

Trash receptacles can easily hide explosive devices and actually become part of the attack by spraying shrapnel and fragmentation at great distances. It must also be understood that a terrorist attack utilizing ordinary trash receptacles and remote activated or time delayed explosive devices can be easily coordinated to strike multiple places simultaneously or in stages, without exposing the terrorist.

To reduce the threat to public safety and facility security created by ordinary trash receptacles, bomb resistant garbage cans are being deployed throughout our nation. Designed to look and function like the ordinary trash cans found at malls, airports, and stadiums, these garbage cans were designed to eliminate all horizontal fragmentation resulting from the detonation of an explosive device from within.

The Department of Homeland Security has not yet created a formal testing standard for this new anti terrorism technology, therefore, agencies and corporations that are considering bomb resistant trash receptacles for their facilities must exercise good judgment when purchasing this technology. In order to regain and maintain an edge over the terrorist, purchasing entities should not publicize in a solicitation or Request for Quote the amount of explosives their bomb receptacles are required to withstand during an explosion (explosive containment rating). Doing so will enable the terrorist to possibly defeat the technology by simply placing a larger size bomb inside of the receptacle. The future deployment locations of this anti terrorism technology should not be publicized either, and doing so could result in the terrorist planting their bomb inside of something without any force protection or possibly even planning a more significant attack, such as a car bomb.

It is equally important for all customers to know what they are purchasing. Understanding how a bomb receptacle was tested to ensure its reliability during an actual terrorist attack is vital for public safety and facility security. Since it cannot be controlled where within a trash receptacle an explosive device will be placed, bottom center, side wall weld seam, side wall opposite weld seam, and midpoint center detonation tests should all be conducted to determine the actual amount of explosives a particular bomb receptacle can withstand from an explosion. This amount of explosives is referred to as the explosive containment rating.

During testing, it is essential to anchor all bomb receptacles to a steel and concrete slab in order to create a real life deployment scenario. Tests conducted on a dirt surface are misleading because the majority of the blast energy will be absorbed by the ground instead of the receptacle Testing bomb receptacles under parameters equivalently how they will actually be deployed will increase their reliability during an actual attack. It is important to also understand that during an actual terrorist attack a bomb receptacle could tip, roll, and gain a tremendous amount of momentum, endangering anybody in its path. That is why it is crucial to anchor bomb receptacles both during testing and upon actual deployment.

Before purchasing bomb resistant waste receptacles, it is important to obtain an official test report that confirms how the product was tested and ensures an accurate explosives containment rating was obtained. The report should originate from a recognized US testing facility and should include the type of explosives used, how the explosives were packed, what the explosives were packed inside of, and must confirm that an equal explosives charge was used for every test. Be certain the test report incorporates close up post detonation photos and is accompanied by the actual video footage taken from the testing. For detailed information about bomb resistant trash receptacles, or to watch pre-recorded product testing videos taken from the Energetic Materials Research and Testing Center visit

If there is one point that can never be overemphasized, it is the value of being prepared. During an actual terrorist attack involving an explosive device it is essential to leave the crime scene immediately, moving to an open space or protected area. Do not form or join a crowd because there may be additional explosive charges around. Avoid to the best of your ability tall buildings, glass windows, vehicles, and additional garbage cans. Once you have reached a secured area, call 911 if police forces have not yet arrived. If there are already police forces at the scene, follow their instructions so they can secure the area and do their job effectively.

After a terror incident involving an improvised explosive device it is important to remain clear of the crime scene. Don’t be fooled if there hasn’t been a secondary explosion for a short period of time and the area is occupied by police, fire, and rescue workers, because there could still be additional bombs a short distance away. If possible, move vehicles out of the area to make way for fire and rescue vehicles. Remain aware of your surroundings and be certain to report any suspicious activities, object, individuals, or vehicles you remember or notice before, during, or after the incident. Even the most trivial piece of information may result in the apprehension of a suspect or prevention of an additional attack, so never prejudge information, and always report it.


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