Terrorism - Bomb Threat and Search


All authorities are in agreement that the most effective and fastest search of a building can be made by the normal occupants of that building. No community can supply the number of police officers or firemen it would take to make a fast thorough search of a facility of any size such as the academic and public assembly facilities on campus. Even if such manpower was available, they would still not be the best qualified to conduct the search.

Since the terrorist does not label the device with the word "bomb,” what should you look for? What does a bomb look like? No one knows. It can be packaged in as many different ways as the maker's imagination will allow. Some devices may be the size of a cigarette package, while others may be as large as a 2-ton truck.

Since the object of the search can vary in size and shape, it is a fundamental rule that the search must be made by persons who are familiar with the area in order to notice a strange or foreign object. However, the use of personnel who occupy the premises to conduct the search may present problems with the hysteria that can result from the threat unless there has been careful planning beforehand.

In devising a search plan, the building or premises to be searched should be divided into areas and each person assigned a room or area. Personnel so assigned should make a survey of the area and note what objects normally occupy the area. Grill covers over heating and air-conditioning ducts should be inspected so that a subsequent inspection would reveal any entry or tampering.

In some instances the detonation or ignition of any explosive or incendiary might depend on a change in environment, e.g. temperature variations or the presence of an electric current. Therefore, the personnel assigned to conduct the search should be cautioned not to cause, or at least minimize any change in the environment. Do not go into a dark room and turn on the lights or change the setting of the room thermostats.

Other search techniques that can be employed are:

  • A staff member or supervisor should be designated as floor or area warden for each floor of the building, or perhaps several area wardens for single-story buildings. Wardens should be responsible for directing the search of their areas, receiving information from search personnel, and relaying it to the command post.
  • If dictated, the Department of Public Safety will notify fire and EMS personnel to respond to standby or assist with the search.
  • An effective search technique is as follows:
  • Maintenance and custodial personnel search such areas as hallways, rest rooms, stairwells, elevator shafts, utility closets, and areas outside the building.
  • Office personnel search their immediate areas.
  • As the search of each area is completed and no suspicious objects found, a report is given to the incident commander.

Communications During Search

A rapid two-way communication system is of utmost importance. Normally, communication among administrators, officers, search teams and the command post can be accomplished through the existing telephone system. DO NOT USE walkie-talkie radios while searching an area. The radio beam could cause premature detonation of an electric initiator (blasting cap).

Suspicious Object Located

NOTE: It is imperative that personnel involved in the search be instructed that their mission is only to search for and report suspicious objects, NOT to move, jar or touch the objects or anything attached thereto. The removal/disarming of a bomb must be left to professional bomb technicians.

  • The location and a description of the object as can best be should be reported to the command post. This information is relayed immediately to the incident commander.
  • To minimize damage sandbags or mattresses, but not metal plates or objects, may be placed around the object. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO COVER THE OBJECT.
  • The danger area should be identified and blocked off with a clear zone of at least 300 feet, including areas below and above the object.
  • Check to see that all doors and windows are open to minimize primary damage from blast and secondary damage from fragmentation.
  • Evacuate the building.
  • Do not permit re-entry into the building until the device has been removed/disarmed and the building declared safe for re-entry.

Possible concealment areas

Buildings and Structures

  • Elevator wells and shafts.
  • Nooks
  • Closets
  • Storage rooms
  • False panels
  • Walk areas
  • Counterweights
  • Motors
  • Cables
  • Trash in shafts
  • All ceiling areas
  • Rest rooms
  • Access doors
  • Crawl space in rest rooms and areas used as access to plumbing fixtures
  • Electric fixtures
  • Utility and other closet areas
  • Space under stairwell
  • Boiler(furnace) rooms
  • Flammable storage areas
  • Main switches and valves
  • Indoor trash receptacles
  • Storage areas, including record-storage areas
  • Mail rooms
  • Ceiling lights with easily removable panels
  • Fire hose racks
  • Basements
  • Around windows hidden by drapes or shades
  • Inside desks
  • Inside storage cabinets and containers
  • Under tables

Auditoriums and Theaters

Searches must be conducted under each seat, into cut seat cushions, as well as the following:

  • Stage areas
  • Microphones
  • Speaker platform
  • Crawl ways
  • Tunnels
  • Trapdoors
  • Dressing rooms
  • Restrooms
  • Storage areas
  • Ceilings
  • Props
  • Hanging decorations
  • Lighting fixtures
  • Sound system
  • Air-conditioning system
  • Roof
  • Heating system
  • Projection booths
  • Offices

Academic Buildings

Bombings in academic buildings are usually directed against non-student areas.

  • Lockers
  • Mechanical rooms
  • Utility closets
  • Offices
  • Chemistry labs
  • Auditoriums
  • Cafeterias, lounges, or break areas

Outside Areas

  • Street drainage systems
  • Manholes in street and sidewalk
  • Trash receptacles
  • Garbage cans
  • Dumpsters
  • Mailboxes
  • Parked cars, trucks and carts

Reporting Emergencies

View Reporting Procedures >

Colleges and Departments