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Bomb Threats and Suspicious Packages

Proven tips to reduce the costly operational impacts

By Jason D. Reid, Senior Advisor, National Life Safety Group

There is a high return on investment for having your workplace staff and building operations personnel prepared for suspicious packages and bomb threat incidents.

Recent news of these threats has far-reaching impact to the intended target that go far beyond public safety. These incidents, if not handled correctly in the first five minutes, drain your operational resources and often shut down your workplace for hours.  These threats, when they do occur,  significantly disrupt your business.

If your organization’s “at risk” personnel, the employees who accept these packages or calls, are unprepared to receive and respond to these threats, the impact will be greater.  This results in associated downtime for your organization and accompanying losses.

“At risk” employees such as switchboard, administrative assistants, mailroom personnel, and shipping/receiving staff, are your organization’s first line of defence during these types of threats and these staff members should have an awareness level of hazards and risks, to effectively deal with suspicious packages, “white powder envelopes,” and bomb threats.

The following are a sample of proven tips to assist your organization to effectively “prepare, prevent, mitigate and respond” to these threats and significantly reduce operational losses, while better protecting your employees:

  1. “At risk” staff in your workplace should be trained to “do the right things” in receiving or responding to bomb threats and suspicious packages prior to the arrival of emergency responders to successfully and safely react to any issues they may encounter.

The actions of staff in the first five minutes during these types of incidents will ultimately determine the length of lost time to your operations, as well as impacts to operations, customers, costs and reputation. Ensure that employees such as administrative assistants, switchboard, mailroom personnel and front-line security staff have rapid access to prepared “checklists” to document receipt of bomb threats. (i.e.: Bomb Threat Control Form).

  1. If your workplace is in a high-rise building and you are a tenant, engage your landlord and property manager to ensure they are prepared for these incidents and can support the arrival of emergency services. Often, building operations personnel can support the initial response by isolating building air intakes and controlling HVAC systems during certain types of incidents.  As a tenant in this building, make sure that the landlord can do this, and that staff are prepared and trained to support.
  1. If your workplace is a commercial office building and you are the property manager for that building, ensure that bomb threat procedures are communicated to building tenants during the annual Fire Warden session. We often focus on “just” fire. It is important to engage tenant Fire Wardens on other emergency procedures applicable to the building so that they may be a resource for all fire, safety and security in the building.
  1. An awareness level on chemical, biological, radiological nuclear, and explosives (CBRNE) has become the gold standard for resilient security teams in workplaces around the world. Front line security staff with a basic understanding of the threats, risks and impacts are better able to respond, and more importantly, prepare, prevent and mitigate these incidents.  Review your organization’s security practices and knowledge on these threats/concerns on an annual basis.
  1. Suspicious Mail Poster Provided by Canada Post. Consider posting these inside mail rooms or “at risk” workstations for quick reference.


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