September 15, 2017

How to Deal with a Bomb Threat

“We heard a noise, then there was a movement of people like a wave and everyone started falling over each other,” said Luca, one of the fans caught up in […]

How to Deal with a Bomb Threat

“We heard a noise, then there was a movement of people like a wave and everyone started falling over each other,” said Luca, one of the fans caught up in the drama.

“I have got blood on me from the people who fell on top of me, people were screaming, jumping over each other,” he told AFPTV. “It was really awful…”

***

June 3rd, 2017.

The Piazza San Carlo Square in Turin, Italy.

Thousands of Juventus fans, an Italian powerhouse in European club football, had gathered inside the square to watch on a big screen as their team took on Real Madrid of Spain. The atmosphere was light, mood jovial, with beer and other drinks flowing freely. The camaraderie ahead of the final was something to behold, which made the tragedy that was to follow all the more anti-climactic.

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A few excitable fans lit fireworks in the square. With the memories of most in the square heavily tainted and scarred by the goings-on around Europe, what with terror-related incidents reported in Manchester, London and elsewhere recently, panic set in. A few misguided fans believed the fireworks to be the onset of a terror attack in the square, triggering a massive stampede. The end result? 1,527 casualties, three of them seriously injured as a result.

***

The above incident is symptomatic of how recent spikes of extremist activity across the globe has many on edge. Bomb threats have been reported across Russia, Spain and in Germany, where a Turkish Airlines out of Cologne Bonn Airport was grounded for hours after police received a bomb threat over the phone.

Closer home, a bomb scare at the Canadian High Commission in Nairobi led to the closure of Limuru Road for a few hours after a private security sniffer dog flagged a package as suspicious. It later turned out to have only contained documents. More recently, a suspicious package was recovered at a university campus on Mokhtar Daddah Street in the Nairobi CBD.

Sometimes, however, a bomb threat or the reaction to an actual attack causes more injury than the attack itself. The Turin incident, where 1,500 were injured after a perceived bomb threat, immediately springs to mind. Elsewhere, an attack on a Tube train in West London led to 22 casualties, many of which are believed to have been as a result of a stampede as hundreds rushed out of the station.

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With this in mind then, how you respond to a perceived or actual bomb threat is of the essence as far as your safety is concerned. What should you do if the building you are in is thought to be under threat, if, for instance a suspicious object is found?

A general rule of thumb as far as identifying potential threats is the HOT acronym. If it’s Hidden, Obviously suspicious and not Typical, you may have cause for worry. Factors such as placement and proximity to large crowds and other high-value targets or equipment are also tell-tale signs that should raise suspicion. The more obvious signs would be protruding wires or cabling (the explosion in West London involved a bucket that had wires emanating from one side), unusual odour, leakage of any liquid and noise.

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Should you spot such an item, do not panic. Do not touch or move the object in question, or tamper with it in any way. Immediately notify emergency services as well as the building caretaker or custodian in order to initiate emergency protocol. Be sure to explain why you believe the object to be suspicious as this will inform their response as well. Should evacuation be required, walk briskly but do not run as this will likely trigger panic and lead to a stampede.

Should further assistance perhaps be slow to arrive, raise an alarm to notify other building occupants then calmly evacuate the building. Distance and protective cover are your friends at this point. Exit using the stairs, not the lifts, and stay away from windows as best you can. Once you are outside, wait for instructions from the authorities on when it will be safe to enter the building again. Before then, do not go back inside for anything.

These guidelines should see you through such a situation, although you hopefully won’t find yourself in such circumstances.

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