Terrorist Threat Blog

by Antiterrorism Consulting

04 - 29 - 2014



Bomb Threat: evacuation of the entire structure or not?


Evacuation for a "bomb threat" is not how to handle a evacuation for a fire, where we are in the presence of a certain tranquility. The evacuation for "bomb threat" has serious implications, risks and real costs. But then, how we manage this problem?

"Bomb threats" are not an extraordinary event as you could think. Every week and month are recorded several "bomb alarm", which then fortunately prove to be forgeries. Unfortunately, these alarms aren't always taken seriously, as it should be done, and such behavior is due to the lack of information available to the Security Manager.

Unlike a fire, some accidents that involve the "security" don't have an evident danger and, therefore, a equally evident response. The Security Manager who choose to evacuate each time where is present an "alarm bomb", adopts the philosophy of "prevention is better than cure", but we must be aware that each evacuation always has serious implications, risks, costs and production losses.

During a mass evacuation, there is nothing safe to manage hundreds or thousands of people that move under psychological pressure, so that they reach a safe and secure place. Some facilities may have various floor, and evacuation of some people with mobility problems may need to use elevators, in order to make the evacuation faster. In this manner we expose them to additional risks.

People during evacuation are exposed to risks, because this process normally creates congestion at exit points. Another problem is, that people must be protected from the weather, traffic and other dangers that are created due to the high concentration of people in a short time. The release of hundreds or thousands of people in the urban landscape in a very short time creates a domino effects, that can be multiplied if other buildings must be evacuated. To really understand the problem you can think of a suspicious package that requires mandatory evacuation of 50 m. for both "inside" and "outsite" staff.

Not all evacuation plans provide routes or areas of collection alternatives, and people must be prepared to decide the right route or area to use for proper evacuation. For example, for a "bomb threat" some "SAFE ZONEs" may be compromised compared to other, thus exposing staff and people to a greater risk. Inside the structure may be present HAZMAT substances (chemical, biological, radiological, explosive and toxic) or "sensitive" or "confidential" information; therefore during evacuation we have to put in safety and security this material, because this alarm may have been done to be able to access undisturbed to such substances or information.

In addition to all these issues, we must considered as financial costs, which are not to be neglected. Evacuate a structure for a "bomb threat" will require the closure of the site. The research and the defusing a bomb (if there is), likely, it will may take several hours or days (the research depends on the extent and type of activity). In these cases, the Continuity of Operation Plans -COOP- must provide the various possible options, for example in some cases it may be cheaper for the propriety considers the total closure of the production and proceed with the research in total safety and security. An unexpected or anticipated closure of the activity, caused by a "bomb threat", could have repercussions on traffic and also on public transport. So, this situation should be coordinated with the local authorities. 

When a Security Manager receives a "bomb threat", he has to decide or continue productive activity, waiting the police, or begin the evacuation. The choice can be crucial, both for the business and for the lives. The choice should be made based on personal knowledge. If the company or the structure adopts the ATMS - AntiTerrorism Management System, the Security Manager is able to assess the threat and the various solution to choose. If the property doesn't a management system, the information in possession of the Security Manager can be very scarce, and the options to be taken are equally scarce. 

In a company with a AntiTerrorism Management System - ATMS - the question about "the threat is real or not", becomes "is it possible for an outsider to have done this or not, and if it is yes in which area?". As you can see, the two claims involve different options with different operating costs. A solution to the first question may be the evacuation of the entire structure, while a solution to the second question can be the evacuation of only one part of the structure.

The solution to these question is done by several factors:

  • excellent knowledge of the place;
  • awareness of productive activities;
  • full control of public areas, risk areas and internal areas of activity;
  • access systems reliable;
  • credentials of staff;
  • opportunity to review suspicious behavior on video-surveillance system (CCTV);
  • research in high-risk areas.

These system produce the informations that Security Manager can use to resolve the question about the "bomb threat". In this way, the ATMS transforms the question "the threat is real or not" in "is it possible to do this or not?" 

In these years it has been observed that there are two types of Security Manager: one, who adopt the philosophy "prevention is better than cure" and then evacuate always, and second who did not evacuate ever considering apripri that this type of threat is false. The first choice has a huge cost for companies, in terms of production losses, while the second choice accepted an incalculable risk and that it may go against all international standards.

During this period, governed by the economic crisis and cost control, an appropriate management system (in this case ATMS) is able to help the Security Manager to choose the right option for the right threat, minimizing costs and production losses, and while ensuring adequate security in same way. Therefore, correct and accurate informations provide to Security Manager a valuable help, and they can reduce the costs associated with these "threats".


by - Antiterrorism Consulting ®