Bomb Threats and Improvised Explosive Devices

You may have noticed on the School Security Awareness Map the rash of bomb threats; not to mention the actual detonation of a pipe bomb on a school campus and the disrupted plot to bomb a school in South Carolina. It seems the combination of spring air, the impending summer break and exams somehow help the justification of threatening a terrorist attack.

Bomb threats are scary, costly, disruptive, highly illegal and unfortunately very common. Bombs/I.E.D.’s blow up buildings, kill people and are thankfully rare. While we often associate bomb threat with explosive devices, the statistics show they are most never related. On the very rare instances they are connected, the explosive device was more likely to be planted outside the school. This certainly brings into question the policy of automatically evacuating the school in response to a threat.

Just as a fire alarm doesn’t mean there is a fire, a bomb threat doesn’t mean there is a bomb. That said, bomb threats must never be ignored. The use of I.E.D.’s is becoming all too common in school plots and attacks; such as Columbine.

So what does a bomb look like?
Bombs are easily disguised to look like every day items. The stereotypical images of bombs as being ball shaped items with fuses or of several sticks of dynamite wrapped together, are useless and should be dismissed. Bombs are more likely to be disguised as common items that fit in with current surroundings. A bomb can be disguised within letters, parcels, brief cases, book bags, back packs, gym bags, vans, cars, or trucks. Explosive devices can be as small as a credit card or a matchbook. The most common bomb type in America is a pipe bomb.

Security awareness (staff & students) and sound physical security (acccess control and video surveillance/CCTV cemeras) are the key in reducing the risk of mass injury from an explosive device. Be sure your plans include the following proactive/preventive measures for each school in the district: :
• Coordinate your bomb threat plan with local law enforcement.
• Be sure all appropriate staff members are aware of the Bomb Threat Report and how it is used.
• Train appropriate staff to recognize a suspicious letter/package received in the mail.
• Enforce key control standards.
• Maintain access control; report suspicious persons.
• Train employees to search for, recognize and report any suspicious package that might be left inside a school building or along the outside perimeter of a building, by a playground, etc.
• Develop a procedure for handling suspicious packages found inside or outside buildings.
• Escalate vehicle parking enforcement and awareness.
• Restrict parking to at least 300 feet from campus buildings, if possible.
• Maintain records of vehicles regularly driven by students and employees.
• Request increased local police patrols of campuses.
• Consider policy requiring students to identify all backpacks, book bags, briefcases etc, with ID tags.
• Always include janitorial and maintenance personnel in your prevention program. These individuals have the run of campus buildings and grounds and are in a position to recognize and report suspicious activity.

Stay safe


This post is provided by SafePlans (, an all-hazards preparedness solution including emergency plans, staff training, and detailed site mapping.

Click here to learn more about the author

Be Sociable, Share!