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Who knows where terrorists may strike next? Everyone is a potential target, now that innocent ‘bystanders’ are used as pawns in attempts to apply political pressure. High-risk targets must toughen up their security.

Terrorist threat

Terrorism is not new. The destruction of property, murder, assassination, kidnap and hostage-taking have long been the tools of those who believe that violence is a means of achieving political and criminal goals. What makes modern terrorists distinct from their historical predecessors is the technology at their disposal and the greater range of opportunities for terrorism which modern life provides-aeroplane hijacking being just one example. More value is now placed on the lives of ordinary people and it is they-not just the rich and powerful—who have become targets.

The global nature of media coverage and the publicity it can give has also fuelled the use of terrorism. There is no doubt also that some nations finance and support the activities of terrorists in other countries with which they have political differences.

The more innocent the victim, the better for terrorism. The reality is that we are ALL potential targets and that we are ALL vulnerable.

How terrorists work

Injury, torture and murder have been tools of terrorists both to destabilize a community through fear and to deter opposition- whether the perpetrators are acting against an established government or in the name of a political cause. Bomb attacks and assassination, however, tend to bring the greatest publicity. They draw attention to a cause and seek to weaken authority. By taking hostages, terrorists may bargain for political concessions or the release from prison of fellow terrorists and sympathizers. Bank raids, kidnap and blackmail may be employed to raise funds to finance their activities.

Not all terrorists are motivated by political aims, the same tactics may be used for direct financial gain or personal revenge. Terrorism has also been adopted by certain ‘extremist’ groups, who feel a need to use violence (as opposed to peaceful demonstration and political pressure) to further their cause. But high on the list of motivation remains racial or religious hatred and intolerance.

The threat of terrorism is no longer limited by distance. Terrorists, if unknown, can use any form of transport and move as easily as any innocent traveller. In recent years, terrorist attacks have included shootings, hijacks and bombings. Bombs mailed as packages or hidden in cars are probably the most common. They may be detonated by movement, a timer mechanism or by remote control.


Some countries, and particular cities, have a high incidence of terrorist activity. Although terrorists can strike anywhere and at any time, it is wise to be aware of world affairs and in which countries there is likely to be a terrorist threat to YOU. If you are going on holiday to a country which has a history of political instability, be aware of how this could affect you and if necessary alter your plans and defer the trip to a safer time.

Military personnel and government employees are always at risk, but if you are connected to a group/company/organization whose activities may attract terrorist attention—YOU could be a target. If you only live or work near a likely target you could also be at risk.


Even if you, your workplace or your home are unlikely terrorist targets we are all vulnerable to attacks in public places. In many cases terrorist attacks have been directed at military and government targets, but things have changed. Department stores, airports, railway stations and underground stations—almost any busy, public place—could now be ‘high risk’. Body and bag searches are common during known periods of terrorist activity.


Although attacks on the general public are fairly indiscriminate, statistics help us identify and protect certain groups of people who are always at risk from some form of terrorism. It’s not possible to account for the effects of sudden political change or war—either of which could suddenly tip the balance against you.


  • Government officials
  • Industrialists
  • Service chiefs
  • Celebrities


  • Civil servants
  • Embassy officials
  • Members of armed forces
  • Families of all the above

If you are a prime target

  • Follow security advice (see SECURITY) regarding home, workplace and telephone.
  • DON’T advertise your presence or your movements—even a wedding announcement could tell an assassin where you are going to be at a certain time.
  • Book hotel accommodation under an assumed name.
  • DON’T stick to a pattern. Vary transport, times and routes to work. Avoid roadworks and congested streets. Change vehicles during longer journeys.
  • Make a habit of looking out of the window before leaving a building. Watch out for people loitering on foot or sitting in parked vehicles.
  • Glance over your shoulder frequently—but unobtrusively, you DON’T want to attract attention—and use reflections in shop windows to see if you are being followed.
  • Be ‘friendly’ with neighbours. You may need them to let you know if anyone is asking questions or taking an unusual interest in you—but DON’T divulge your business or movements to them.
  • Telephone ahead when making journeys and telephone base when you arrive.
  • Arrange a coded phrase to be used if you are in danger or under duress and need help. Choose an arrangement of words that can be fitted into normal conversation. It can be anything which sounds innocent—‘I didn’t bring a raincoat’, ‘The roads were clear’, ‘Sorry. This is a really bad line’.


The most feared and most used commonly weapon in the terrorist’s arsenal is the bomb. Modern technology serves the terrorist well with ever-more reliable and complex detonation systems and increasingly-powerful explosive substances. A bomb does not care who it kills—this knowledge and the fear that it creates in innocent people, is why the bomb is the ultimate weapon of terror.

Bomb detection

Dogs, with their very powerful sense of smell, have been trained to detect the presence of most explosives. Police forces and anti-terrorist organizations around the world use sniffer dogs. There are some types of explosive, particularly plastic ones, which are odourless and very difficult to detect.

Metal detectors can be used to scan packages and luggage—metal is an essential part of bomb-making—but it is also found in many everyday items. The most effective application is screening for parcel and mail bombs. Hand-held detectors are suitable for small offices and mailrooms. For rapid scanning of large numbers of items a larger fixed apparatus will be needed. Some are capable of handling 9000 packages an hour and taking parcels up to 5cm (2in) thick.

X-rays can be used to ‘see’ into packages and luggage. X-ray machines are the most efficient way of screening for bombs—they are used at all international airports. The operator must be expertly trained to identify suspect devices quickly, since thousands of pieces of hand luggage must be scanned per day.

Save lives

Few terrorists set out on suicide missions. Bombs, the most common form of attack, are usually planted and detonated once the bomber has escaped. By being constantly aware and keeping an eye out for abandoned/suspect cases or packages (especially on transport systems and in public places), you may save yourself and others from injury or death. If you see a suspicious package or container:

  • DO NOT touch it-moving it may trigger an explosion.
  • DO NOT shout ‘Bomb’. This could cause dangerous panic.
  • Move away and tell others to do the same—but tell them quietly and calmly.
  • If you are on a moving underground/subway train, do NOT activate the alarm between stations. In some countries the train will stop immediately, which could jolt the package. Usually the emergency signal only alerts the driver, who will stop the train at the next station.
  • On trains with doors between carriages, tell other people to move away and then alert the guard/conductor.
  • If you see someone leave a bag or package behind, call after them. If they deny any association or just run off, treat the object as suspect.
  • Make a mental note of the appearance of the person. Your description of them may prove vital later (see SELF-DEFENCE: Being a witness).
  • If you have a camera with you, take a photograph—even a back view may be helpful in identification.
  • Inform a police officer or other responsible official or telephone a police emergency number.

If you receive a bomb threat

Most threats or warnings are given by telephone. If you take such a call it is VITAL to remember all that is said accurately. Write points down as they occur. Try to get as much information as possible. This may be possible by direct questioning or by pretending that you think the call is a practical joke-more details may be given by the caller to persuade you.

Telling the caller that children are at risk or otherwise appealing to his/her humanity-‘surely you don’t want to kill innocent children’—may gain time or information on how to prevent an explosion. Give details of the call to the police or a security officer IMMEDIATELY. If facilities are available, threat calls should be recorded.

Information needed

ALL information about the caller and about the call is VITAL for anti-terrorist and police action. A check list should be available by EVERY telephone in the workplace-whoever takes the call may be frightened or flustered. It will help to ensure that you get the following information:

  • The message (word-for-word if possible) including any codewords
  • Gender of caller: male/female
  • Age group of caller: child / adolescent / adult / elderly
  • Speech style of caller: rapid, slow, calm, excited, accented, unusual or frequent use of words
  • Background noises
  • Time
  • Date
  • Your name

Hoax or real?

A hoax threat (without a bomb being placed) causes considerable disruption. It is illegal, dangerous and STUPID. Fear and panic are the obvious results. Knock-on effects may disrupt the lives of thousands of innocent people, through chaos on public transport or loss of working time for example. There is always the danger that a hoax may be part of a pattern to distract attention from a real bomb placed elsewhere—or a series of hoaxes may be designed to encourage a real warning to be ignored. There are many more hoaxes than genuine threats, but no threat can be dismissed until it has been very carefully assessed. People at risk MUST, of course, be protected. Always ask yourself:

  • Does the call fit into a pattern of previous terrorist attack?
  • Is it likely that you or your workplace could be at risk from terrorist attack?
  • Is there anything in the message which could identify it as a genuine threat, including details of the type of bomb?

This last question highlights why you MUST make an accurate record of the conversation. Certain phrases, even specific codewords, are known to be used by terrorist groups in their warnings. The caller may have privileged knowledge of the interior layout of a building—and say so.

Letter bombs

A letter bomb is a clumsy terrorist weapon. Although the likelihood of the bomber being identified is reduced to a minimum, most intended victims don’t open their own mail. Letter bombs cannot easily be directed at exact targets. All mailroom staff, secretaries, family members and others who handle correspondence for a potential target (individual or organization) should understand the risks and relevant procedures. Instructions on screening should be clearly displayed wherever packages are opened.

There is no easy way to recognize a letter bomb—a terrorist will probably make it look as ordinary as possible-though hoax devices are sometimes made to look suspicious in the hope of causing maximum panic.



Beware of any unexpected mail, especially if no sender’s name and address is given. If not addressed to you, find out if the addressee is expecting a package. Telephone the sender and check whether the package is genuine. Look out for:

  • Padded mailing bags—one of the most widely used and ideal ways of disguising an explosive device
  • Packages that are unexpectedly heavy for their size
  • Grease marks/sweating on packages—it may be caused by old or unstable explosive substances
  • A smell similar to almonds or marzipan
  • Wire or tin foil protruding from package
  • Packages that feel spongy or seem unbalanced in weight
  • Excessive sealing tape—it could be there to hold down a spring detonator
  • Inaccurate addressing or sub-standard typing
  • Excessive postage paid
  • Packages containing other sealed containers

Packages may include a series of trigger devices. They do not detonate the explosive immediately, but trigger a time delay in the hope of getting the bomb through the mailroom to its actual target.

If it might be a bomb

  • LEAVE IT undisturbed.
  • DON’T cover it or place it in water.
  • Inform police/security staff.
  • WRITE DOWN all details of packages which have come through the mail—postmark, stamps, how addressed, sender’s name and address, condition. It may help later. If the device detonates, all information may be lost.
  • Clear the room/area.
  • Open windows. If you cannot, tell colleagues and passers-by to stay well clear of them in case of flying glass.
  • Lock the door so that no one can walk in.

Do NOT open or attempt to defuse. Leave it to the experts!

Vehicle bombs

Terrorists may turn a vehicle itself into a travelling bomb to be driven into or at a target. Alternatively, a car may be parked near a target or left ready to detonate by timer/remote control. Defence against this form of attack can only rely on refusing admittance of unauthorized vehicles to high-risk areas, preventing parking and constant vigilance by potential targets and people who protect them.

Bombs may be fixed to the target’s own vehicle. To do this, terrorists must obtain access. Constant surveillance and secure garaging of vehicles when not being driven deny terrorists access (unless they have infiltrated the target’s security). This may be possible for VIPs or the wealthy, but in cities many vehicles have to be parked in the open and left unattended.

The target or the driver of the vehicle MUST have a thorough knowledge of it to be able to spot any changes. You need an expert knowledge of what the vehicle looks like inside and out, underneath, in the boot and under the bonnet. Always lock your vehicle, with windows and sun roof closed. Leave things arranged inside so that you can see if they have been disturbed in any way. Better still, keep the boot, glove compartment—all obvious hiding places—CLEAR.

Hubcaps are a favourite bomb concealment location—the same make of hubcap is bought, fitted with a bomb and substituted. Discreetly mark your hubcaps and wheels—a tiny dot or scratch will serve the purpose. Line the marks up—if they are out of alignment they must have been removed and replaced by someone.

Fill up keyholes with soft wax. This will do no harm to the lock, but will indicate if anyone has inserted a key. Thin strips of clear tape across door, bonnet and boot openings will leave tell-tale breaks if they are opened.

Before you get into your vehicle ALWAYS carry out a search. A detailed search takes hours, but if you are a high-risk target, a regular search must be done every time the vehicle has been left unattended. The techniques given above save search time—a search is good practice for any vehicle user (especially if you park your car near any potential target) during a period of terrorist activity.

  • Walk round the vehicle to inspect it, WITHOUT touching it
  • Look for objects under the vehicle and under the wheel arches—crouch down if necessary
  • Look for any signs of adhesive/insulating tape, pins, wire, or other suspicious items
  • Look for any signs of entry. Are the tape seals still intact on the door, bonnet and boot?
  • Look for fingerprints or smudges on the bodywork. Keep your vehicle clean and polished so that signs of tampering show up.
  • Check out the interior through the windows. Is everything inside the vehicle EXACTLY as you left it?
  • Look behind bumpers, inside spoilers and around the underside of bodywork—these are common bomb concealment areas
  • Check interior again after you have opened the door

A visual check of the underside of your vehicle—places like wheel arches, spoilers and the bodywork—can be made easier and quicker with a simple tool made from a mirror attached to a stick. In some countries such tools are sold by security equipment suppliers. A flashlight can be fitted to give better visibility.


If ANYTHING makes you suspicious, do NOT touch any part of the vehicle. EVACUATE the area and call the police.

Expert searches

Detailed searches should ONLY be undertaken by trained specialists. They involve thorough inspections of all parts of a vehicle and must be carried out whenever the vehicle has been serviced, repaired or left unattended.

In addition to the checks already listed, the underside of the vehicle must be inspected thoroughly. ALL parts of the engine and exhaust system must be inspected by someone who is completely familiar with the particular make and model of vehicle. A device may be heat sensitive and will detonate when the vehicle warms up. The boot, spare wheel and tool box should also be emptied/stripped down and searched. The electrical system must be thoroughly checked—bombs are often linked up to the wiring of a vehicle so that they explode when the ignition key is turned or when a particular electrical circuit is operated. ALL wires must be identified.

Once the mechanical/external checks have been made and those areas have been cleared, a thorough internal search must be made. All removable parts of the vehicle interior-upholstery, carpets and seats—must be taken out and searched. Door panels, dashboard and all linings must be checked for tampering—where necessary removed. All storage compartments must be emptied and searched.


When a vehicle has been given a detailed search and cleared, make future quick checks easier by using anti-tampering devices (see VEHICLE SEARCH panel). ALWAYS keep the vehicle in a secure area. High-risk target vehicles should NEVER be left unattended.

Hijack / kidnap

Terrorists have shown, themselves to have little or no regard for human life-this is graphically illustrated by hijacks and kidnappings of recent years. By kidnapping someone or by taking hostages, in a hijack, the terrorist gains or hopes to gain the advantage or publicity for a ‘cause’ by putting people’s lives at risk.


The terrorists AND hostages are likely to be in a highly-emotional state in a hijack situation. If you are innocently caught up in a hijack, you MUST remain as calm as possible. Everyone is at great risk in such a stressful situation where emotions are at their most volatile.

  • DON’T be aggressive.
  • DON’T make yourself stand out. By drawing attention to yourself, you increase the risk of being ‘singled out’.
  • Hide or dispose of documents or other items which might increase hostility towards you.
  • Cooperate with terrorists in preparing meals, tending the injured and generally looking after others—including the terrorists themselves.
  • Avoid eye-to-eye contact with the terrorists.
  • Try to reassure any hostages showing signs of strain-make allowances for behaviour caused by stress.
  • If a rapport can be built up with the terrorists, ask if conditions can be improved for everyone—blankets to counter cold, for example.
  • Drink plenty of water—you need over a litre (two pints) a day. Food intake can be reduced dramatically but water is essential.
  • Avoid alcohol—it dehydrates your body AND you need to keep your wits about you.
  • Be prepared for difficulties with sanitation, particularly in an aircraft/train/bus, where toilets are not designed for extended use.
  • If you understand the ‘politics’ of the situation, do NOT imagine that you could dissuade the terrorists from their cause. It would be safer to agree with them.
  • Keep your mind occupied.
  • Talk to your captors about personal matters, show them photographs of your children. The more they begin to see you as an individual with a life and relatives or a family of your own, the less you may represent a ‘victim’. The more they identify with you personally, the more difficult it becomes for them to harm you.


If a rescue attempt is made, get to the floor and use your arms to protect your head (see Under fire). Do NOT move until you are told by your rescuers that it is safe to do so. DON’T try to be a hero—rescuers will not have time to make positive identification before shooting to kill. Their priority is minimum casualties—DON’T risk accidental injury. Follow instructions exactly and make an orderly exit as quickly as possible—the aircraft or building may have been wired with explosives. Vehicle/aircraft fuel may be a fire risk.


Kidnap can only be guarded against by careful and comprehensive security measures. Avoid struggling—you may be injured—but if you can attract attention, witnesses can raise the alarm and give valuable information to the police. Once abducted, stay as calm as possible. Do NOT get aggressive.

Try to work out where you are being taken, look out for identifiable landmarks. If blindfolded or in a windowless vehicle, listen for sounds that might tell you where you are. You can also try to work out your route from the movement of the vehicle. It might help you keep your mind occupied. At best, if your sense of direction is accurate, it might help you if you get a chance to escape.


Kidnap situations vary widely from incarceration in a windowless darkened cell, to almost normal living conditions. It is impossible to predict/prepare for the experience. One thing to remember at all times is that as a hostage you are more valuable ALIVE.

Getting to know your kidnappers may help you to assess how to behave, but BE COOPERATIVE. The more they can relate to you, the better. You may receive better treatment.


Escape may be worth considering, but should be attempted ONLY if you are extremely confident of success—though inventing plans may be a way of keeping up morale. If you are denied reading material and other ways of passing the time, you MUST keep yourself mentally alert and your mind off your situation as much as possible. Recite poems or songs, recall movies scene-by-scene, set yourself sums and puzzles, invent stories and commit them to memory-whatever works.


Plotting an escape MAY make you feel better, but think again. Are the kidnappers armed? How many of them are there? Where are you? Where will you go? In some cases of kidnap, victims may actually be taken to other countries! It you don’t seem to be at great risk physically, it may be safer to stay put.


ALWAYS inform the police if you are asked to pay a ransom (or subjected to any form of blackmail). Payment will not necessarily obtain safe release of a kidnap victim—kidnappers could go on asking for more money or inflict injury anyway. Get as much information from the kidnappers as possible. If contact is made by telephone, a check list similar to the type you need to take details of a bomb warning would be useful (see If you receive a bomb threat). Keep any written communications clean for forensic analysis by the police.


In many kidnap/hostage situations you might find yourself tied up and gagged. Being tied up, even for a short time, can be very painful and may even cause serious injury by cutting off blood circulation. To avoid injury and make the restraints less effective, do the following:

  • ‘Relax’ as you are being tied to a chair. Slump down, keeping the small of your back away from the chair. When you straighten up, there may be enough slack in your bonds for you to escape.
  • Expand your chest and keep it expanded until the tying is finished.
  • Try to keep your knees or ankles slightly apart.
  • Keep your hands slightly apart—but don’t overdo it—you need just enough to wriggle out of your bonds.
  • If you are on the ground with your hands tied behind you, try to pass your hands under your rear. With your hands in front you can then use your teeth to undo knots.
  • If gagged, try to catch the gag in your teeth so it is not forced all the way back into your mouth.
  • Rub a blindfold against a shoulder or any convenient edge to push it UP-don’t try to lower it, your nose will get in the way.
  • Use any sharp edge to wear through ropes.
  • If you are tied up with other people, teamwork can achieve more—try to undo a fellow captive’s knots with your teeth or fingers.

Instructions for the handover of cash may be set up by a series of telephone calls or letters—both are ways for the police to trace the kidnappers. Kidnappers may invent highly complex procedures for the transfer of ransom payments to reduce the risk of capture. Recent schemes have involved a complicated network of bank accounts and bank self-service cash machines. However, banks will usually be ready to cooperate with the police.

Although the police must be involved, it is often stated very early on by kidnappers that you must NOT involve them. At all costs, the press must be prevented from hearing of the kidnap—media coverage will give the game away.

Under fire

Firearms, particularly automatic weapons and hand guns, are commonly used by terrorists. They can only be used at relatively-close range, and therefore increase the risk of an attacker being captured or injured by returned fire. Nevertheless, any precautions against terrorism MUST include an awareness about how to behave when threatened by an armed person and what to do if you are shot at.


The romantic impression given about guns and their effects in the movies has very little bearing on reality. DON’T think about being a hero if you are confronted with a gun, and NEVER use one unless you have had training in gun handling—you are likely to do yourself more harm!

Shots being fired without warning can quite often go unnoticed—you may not even hear a bang! Unless you are close to it, the sound of a shot can be muffled in a crowd and difficult to identify. You may not SEE the gun or its effects. If you have the slightest suspicion that shots are being fired, drop to the ground IMMEDIATELY and cover your head with your hands—tell anyone near you to do the same. ‘Hitting the deck’ like this makes you less of a target and also protects you from deadly ricochet and flying debris.

If there is any cover USE IT, but on no account move if an attacker has told you not to. If an attacker has singled you out or you are in range—in an armed robbery, for example—your best defence is to do exactly what you are told to do. An attacker, particularly one who has already wounded or killed someone, is likely to be very highly strung. The slightest movement may be interpreted as a threat. All it takes is the squeeze of a trigger.

Anti-terrorist and security personnel are usually trained to disarm an attacker. Without training, you are likely to put yourself and those around you at more risk by taking on an armed person. Remain as calm, still and close to the ground as possible. This is VITAL if gun fire is returned by police or military personnel. You could easily get caught in crossfire, if you get up and try to run for it. Even if your attacker has been shot and seems to be out of action, do NOT move until you are specifically told to do so.

Hold-ups and robberies

The risk of being present during an armed robbery is surprisingly high in cities—whether the robbers are ‘only in it for the money’ or terrorists trying to raise funds for their activities. If you work in a bank or with large quantities of cash, that risk is even greater.

Wherever money changes hands or is loaded into vehicles (especially where large sums are involved) the process must ALWAYS be screened from the public by effective barriers and partitions. Doors through these should ONLY be opened to known staff, when appropriate codes/credentials are given and confirmed. Locks should be operated from the inside, NOT by an external key.

If a staff member is being threatened or is under duress, they should use a code to indicate the situation to their colleagues. It should be easily recognizable and phrased as a request, like: ‘Can you ask Johnny to let me through please’. ‘Johnny’ could be the code for ‘I am being threatened with a gun’. ‘Let me through please’ could be a signal to activate an alarm system.


DON’T risk your or anyone else’s life for the sake of money. Cash can be recovered—life cannot! Tills may have automatic locking/timing devices, which would make handing over cash impossible. Without that provision there is NO alternative but to hand over the cash if faced with a gun.

  • Sound alarms which alert security staff/police, without signalling to robbers. Alarm triggers should be undetectable, except to trained staff
  • Stall for time if you can, without raising suspicion
  • DON’T take any direct action against robbers
  • DO as you are told
  • DON’T try to run away—unless the robbers are unaware of your presence and you can escape safely
  • DON’T draw attention to yourself
  • DON’T shout or scream
  • DON’T argue—either with the robbers or others caught up in the robbery
  • DON’T volunteer information
  • MAKE a mental note of everything you see and everything that happens-what the robbers look like / voices / behavior / sequence of events
  • As soon as possible telephone the police and report everything to them Write your evidence down as soon as you can, the stress of the occasion often makes exact recall difficult later. Pass it on to the police as soon as possible (see SELF-DEFENCE: Being a witness).

Holding an attacker

In the unlikely event that YOU may have to search a suspect or restrain one, follow this procedure. There is always a possibility that rescuers may not be able to tell (initially) terrorists from hostages, of course, so this could happen to you!


If you see any violent incident do NOT enter the building or area where it is happening. Telephone the police at once. If you can still see what is happening, DON’T HANG UP when you have given the alarm. Stay on the line so that you can report events to the police as they happen. Make a written record of what you saw as accurate evidence before details are forgotten. Date and sign it before delivering it to the police.

If it is impossible to get to a telephone, observe carefully, make notes and report to the police as soon as possible (see SELF-DEFENCE: Being a witness). If you are carrying a camera, take photographs.


Kidnap, hijack, armed robbery and other terrorist action can be deeply traumatic with long-lasting effects. Hostages and hijack victims may be physically and mentally exhausted, sometimes with an irrational sense of guilt. They may sleep badly and have nightmares. Help from professional counsellors should be sought to help cope with these problems. In many cases, victims should be treated for shock (see HEALTH: Save a life!).

Pull off any outer garments or coat and make suspect stand facing a wall. Lean them against it with their arms up, palms flat against it and legs apart. The feet should be far enough from the wall to force the suspect to lean hard against it. Hook your foot round the suspect’s ankle-ready to pull them off balance if they try to escape. As you make the body search for concealed weapons/devices, feel clothes for ANY unusual object but be careful of blades and syringes.

  • Turn suspect’s head to one side and open mouth to check whether anything is concealed inside.
  • Starting at right hand, feel up right arm to armpit, across chest-checking pockets—back along shoulders, down right side of abdomen, around waist and up left-hand side of abdomen, then along left arm.
  • Start at right foot, up right leg-checking pockets-groin and down left leg to foot.

To secure a suspect: Blindfold, then tie hands behind back, securing them to a fixed object through the legs. Use shoelaces (if nothing else is available) to tie thumbs tightly together behind back.

Once suspect is secured, search through his/her outer garments, and any bags. Reassure them they are at no risk and that they should not struggle.


This is very unlikely to take place and is obviously not something you could do by yourself. Once an attacker has been restrained or tied up, you must NOT sink to their level by being violent or causing pain. Let the police deal with them.

Risk limitation

Normal home security devices are inadequate if you are combatting terrorism, rather than break-ins or burglary. In the workplace, high security measures are essential (see SECURITY) for companies/organizations at every level of risk.

General security and fire precautions will provide basic anti-terrorist measures but, if premises are a potential target for terrorist attack, more extreme measures are necessary-specifc strategies must be devised. Managers who have to balance risk to property against the expense of precautions must first consider the ‘cost’ of possible damage to people.

Confidence in security procedures will encourage better morale and greater efficiency among staff. They should be introduced to anti-terrorist measures in a positive way-generating paranoia will be counterproductive.

Preventing intrusion

In the office or enclosed industrial site, a multi-layer system to prevent entry and detect would-be intruders, coupled with physical checks, will be effective, provided security guards are vigilant (see SECURITY).

Visitors and clients may find such measures off-putting, so it will help to warn them in advance and remind them that inspections are for their own safety.

Bombs do not need to be carried into a building, they can be fired—as a rocket or mortar bomb—or placed near the outside of the building. Seal letterboxes and fit grilles across vents, flues and other places where objects could be inserted. Seal accessible windows and instal shatterproof glass (or cover with metal grilles). Secure manhole covers and in a very high security situation use gates to bar access via sewers and other service channels.

Set up a perimeter barrier 10 metres (11 yards) or more (if possible) from the building. Do not allow unauthorized vehicles to park within this boundary. Never allow parking close to a high-risk building and erect physical barriers to prevent it. These may take the form of banked flower beds or terraces and need not be obvious barriers. All authorized cars should be locked and a guard posted to ensure they are not tampered with in any way.

Inside the building

The ingenuity of terrorists means that a bomb can be hidden ANYWHERE, but you can make it harder for them. Reduce the risks greatly by not providing:

  • False ceilings
  • Air-conditioning vents and pipes
  • Oversized light fittings
  • Accessible lavatory cisterns
  • Any other locations with removable covers

Use furniture that provides minimum concealment-glass topped tables, no shelving, except in locked cupboards. Blinds or shutters are preferable to curtains. Plant pots and troughs provide further places to hide explosive devices. They may be ‘attractive’, but they are particularly hazardous in entrance lobbies and public access areas.

Enforce rules against untidy desks and work areas—don’t allow work to be piled up on them. It may be easy to slip a bomb under a pile of papers or in a document tray. An orderly and tidy working environment will make anything unusual or suspicious more noticeable to staff.

Similarly, scrap materials in industrial premises should not be allowed to accumulate and provide scope for concealment. Boxes, canisters and raw materials should not be stacked or stored in areas to which visitors have access. A device could easily be placed among them.


When building from scratch, do not exclude terrorism when it comes to considering general security. Avoid architectural features, fittings and equipment that could be used as hiding places. Use sloping ledges inside and out, rather than flat surfaces (for example) and consult a security expert from the outset. Changes on the drawing board will cost much less than later alterations.

In some public buildings, such as department stores, it is virtually impossible to impose more thorough security checks on the public than a bag search on entry. It is VITAL, therefore, that staff and customers are vigilant and look out for suspicious packages or odd/questionable behaviour. Staff should also be well versed in procedures for reporting suspect devices, evacuation and further action.


NEVER THINK THAT YOUR SECURITY IS FOOLPROOF! Always be on the lookout for gaps in your defence and ways to improve on your procedures. Constantly assess the terrorist scene and keep abreast of developments in anti-terrorist equipment.

Damage limitation

Good staff training and well-planned evacuation routes will counter the risk of panic and quickly clear the building. Apply protective film to windows to reduce the risks from flying glass. Fit anti-blast curtains made of tightly-woven polyester with a weighted hem. These will absorb the blast and glass fragments. Fire-fighting equipment should be readily accessible at all locations (see FIRE!).

Staff training

Every company and organization should already have fire drills, staff training—and regular practices! These procedures can be extended to cover the threat of terrorism. The police or terrorism experts can give advice on how to draw up anti-terrorist plans to suit individual circumstances.

All staff must be aware of potential risks and the recommended measures that should be taken to combat them-though information that could be useful to terrorists should be disclosed on a ‘need to know’ basis only. No member of staff should EVER discuss security, the layout of a building or the use of individual areas, with ANY outsider.

Staff should also be made aware of the fact that ‘careless talk costs lives’. A conversation between two authorized members of staff in a public place may be overheard by terrorists-even seemingly inconsequential topics of conversation may be useful. If you do not have canteen or refreshment facilities, staff may regularly meet in cafes, restaurants and public houses. When they are together, discussing ‘work’ may be unavoidable. The news of the impending visit of an important person, for instance, may spread like wildfire.

If the company is not large enough to have its own security officers, a member of staff must be given this responsibility and become the contact with police and other organizations. At least one, preferably two, members of staff should be appointed as bomb-threat officers. They MUST be trained in the recognition of explosive devices. Neither they, nor any other member of staff, must ever take charge of bomb disposal—that is a job for the experts.

All staff members must know any coded warnings (see Hold-ups and robberies) and be familiar with the company’s evacuation procedures. Each must know their exact responsibilities. In an evacuation, some may be responsible for seeing visitors or customers off the premises whilst others may supervise staff muster points.


The safest way to deal with a bomb or a suspect device is to get as far away from it as possible-as quickly as possible. Unless you have VERY good reason to believe that a bomb is a hoax, evacuate the area.


Lines of communication must be established for any emergency situation and some means of contacting all staff quickly devised. Public-address systems or internal telephones may be available, but some reserve system should be considered, perhaps loud-hailers.


Walkie-talkies are not suitable for contact in bomb emergencies-electronic detonators are sometimes designed to be activated by radio frequencies. Unless an expert has seen the bomb, you cannot be sure if it is to be detonated by a trigger, by a timer or by remote control.

Staff emergency codes

In shops, hotels, airports, conference and entertainment centres, or anywhere where the public gather in large numbers, it is VITAL to have a means of alerting responsible staff to a terrorist situation quickly WITHOUT causing panic. The best way of communicating is by a public-address system and using a series of codes, devised to cover all possible emergencies. These should be known and understood by members of staff as part of their regular training.

If the emergency can be contained and the public are not at risk, then the rest of the staff should know what to do, without causing general panic. If action is needed, staff can implement emergency drills and be ready to give assistance unhindered.

Emergency codes will vary according to the circumstances, but they could follow the style ‘Mr Black report to reception’, for example. To the untrained ear this is a normal enough message, but to staff the name ‘Mr Black’ would mean a bomb threat and ‘report to reception’, carry out emergency evacuation procedure.


All alarm systems should be regularly tested. They need to be sounded during working hours, unannounced, to test evacuation procedures. People in high-risk buildings may be nervous enough without being subjected to alarms, which could mean anything. Establish an alarm language. Three short blasts, pause, three short blasts could mean that the alarm is for testing evacuation procedure only. A continuous alarm could indicate a real fire emergency. A continuous stream of short blasts could indicate that there is a bomb in the building.


There may be no way to tell initially whether a bomb warning is a hoax or not, but you CAN’T take chances—the only course of action is to evacuate. In workplaces, or at school, everyone on the premises should know the evacuation drill. This will be much the same as a fire drill (see FIRE!: Equipment & drills).

Where members of the public are present (places such as shops, theatres or sports stadia), it is up to the staff to organize evacuation-calmly and quickly. Providing a building has adequate emergency exists, the public should not be at risk.

Planning an evacuation procedure depends on a building’s layout and use. In most countries there are laws governing the number and location of exits, often depending on how many people use the building. If you are responsible for safety in a public building you may be liable to prosecution if regulations are not followed. Equally, if you are just an employee, and you suspect that safety rules are not being maintained, you MUST report this to the relevant authorities—people’s lives may depend on it!

If you are evacuating the public from a building in the event of a bomb threat, there are special instructions which you must give to people. Some contradict instructions you may be used to in fire drills.

  • DON’T leave belongings behind, especially bags. This reduces the number of possible suspect packages that bomb disposal experts have to deal with.
  • In a theatre or similar venue with tilting seats, make sure that your seat is lifted so that a search is made easier.
  • Once clear of the danger area, report any suspicious object and its location to police or security officer.
  • Once out of danger, DON’T leave the scene—if a bomb has been planted the police will need to eliminate from suspicion as many people as possible. If you were in the vicinity, be prepared to give your name and address so that you can be interviewed later.

If a bomb warning has been given and evacuation has taken place, the only people who should re-enter the evacuated area are the police, security officers and the bomb squad. However, the best people to search each area are the people who work in it. Without their knowledge, a search is likely to be time wasting and possibly ineffective. For this reason it is VITAL that once a bomb alert has been given, staff have a quick-search procedure which they can put into action as they evacuate.

There is every possibility that more than one bomb may have been planted—in more than one location. A bomb may be intended to target people who have just evacuated from the area where a warning has been given, or to kill police or antiterrorist forces who are at the scene to investigate. The aim of a search, therefore, is to gather information over as wide an area as possible—not just in the location given in a warning.

Search procedure

Search strategy must be worked out in advance. Staff or individuals must understand their functions in a search and how to use any relevant equipment.


The key to an efficient and fast search is familiarity with the area—if YOU know what belongs where, then you are more likely to spot something out of place! Keep the work area tidy!

The size of an individual’s search area depends on the number of available searchers and how familiar they are with the territory. In a complex environment—an oil refinery is a good example—each person can only search the limited area they are familiar with. If you have a work station—where the majority of your daily working time is spent—then this should be your search area.

If you are responsible for a wider working area or a group of staff, work out the minimum number of people necessary to carry out work-station searches. In an office this might mean two or three people searching desktops and floors for suspect devices before or while evacuating. Meanwhile, all other members of staff leave quickly and calmly.

If you are a bomb-threat officer or the person with overall responsibility, it is up to you to search other possible sites such as stairwells, lavatories, reception/meeting rooms. That done you can evacuate the building, taking with you a detailed floor plan for the police to refer to.

Once reunited at the designated muster point, staff must report the findings of their search:

  • Nothing sighted—state area searched
  • Possible sighting—give description and location
  • Definite sighting—give description and location

By the time the police or bomb squad arrive a senior member of staff should be able to account for ALL personnel and visitors—the building should be FULLY evacuated. Give a good assessment of the presence of suspect devices. It should be possible to provisionally rule out some areas as being low-risk and direct the bomb squad to more likely locations.


DO NOT re-enter the building/area until the all-clear has been given by the bomb squad. NO muster point for stall should ever be near enough to the building or people to be at risk from flying glass or debris, if the bomb explodes.

  • Any unauthorized person found during a search should be treated with suspicion. The police will want to talk to them
  • Search with your eyes ONLY—a search is visual NOT physical
  • DON’T open cupboards/drawers/doors
  • DON’T touch anything that looks suspicious
  • Remove ONLY your own personal belongings
  • Remain quiet-you should also be LISTENING for unusual noises (ticking, perhaps—although that’s a rather old-fashioned idea)

High-security lifestyle

The risk of attack or kidnap for a potential terrorist target can be reduced if the location and style of their accommodation are considered carefully. NEVER give the terrorist the advantage.

Densely-populated cities allow good communications with emergency services, usually have street lighting and may offer a choice of routes for journeys. It is easier to keep a low profile and to mingle in crowds—but this environment can favour the terrorist as well. Suburban areas may offer larger properties with private grounds. With adequate resources a perimeter wall/fence can offer good protection to a suburban home, but road routes into the centre of the city may be more of a problem, especially at rush hour.

Flats in apartment blocks usually offer limited access. The main building door can be equipped with an ‘entryphone’ and closed-circuit television (CCTV), but there may be more than one entrance. ‘Visitors’ might be admitted by other occupants of the building. Terraced houses have limited access but a detached house is preferable. If it is multi-storey, it offers better observation points. Ground-floor doors and windows, at least, MUST be made secure (see SECURITY).

A house in grounds should have a high perimeter wall, with the minimum number of entrances/exits. A drive or approach road should have speed bumps to slow cars. Garages/ car-parking areas should be well away from the house, well lit at night, with limited access. There should be no bushes, trees, or other obstructions within 50 metres (about 50 yards) of the house. Grounds should be floodlit at night. ALL security and alarm devices should be used (see SECURITY).

Personal bodyguards should supervise identification and admission of all visitors. Immediate access to potential targets should not be given to a visitor. A small delay—an offer of refreshment may be an excuse—allows security staff time to double-check visitor identity and assess possible terrorist risk. In a contact situation like a meeting or interview, the layout of the room is also important. The visitor should be offered a low, padded chair, with no arms. This makes it difficult to get up quickly. The potential target should sit behind a heavy desk which offers a protective barrier.

If a meeting is being held in private, a hidden panic button should be accessible in case of an emergency.


To maintain security all household employees must be totally reliable, so great care must be taken when choosing staff. Strict vetting procedures MUST be followed, references checked and private life investigated. It is VITAL that staff are treated well and feel appreciated. Dissatisfaction with wages, conditions or any resentment towards the person they are protecting could lead to a breach of security.

Bullet / blastproofing

Bulletproof glass

This is made of several layers of glass and plastic. The laminate can be made as thick as required, and will stop all small arms fire. It is ideal in high-risk areas such as banks, post offices-anywhere where large amounts of cash are handled.

The glass is very heavy, which is partly why bulletproof cars/vans need special suspension. Bulletproof glass will also perform well if an explosion occurs. Like conventional laminated glass, there is little fragmentation.

Bulletproof clothing

Nowadays this is usually made from kevlar - an almost unbreakable man-made fibre. Its very long strands can be woven into almost any garment to protect the heart, lungs-all vital organs. Several layers may be used, depending on the seriousness of the treat-six layers will stop a bullet from a handgun. More layers are needed if the garment is to be any use against a magnum or special ammunition. If high-velocity rifles are likely to be involved, a ceramic plate is placed over the kevlar, but the disadvantage is that this makes the armour very bulky and inflexible—and detectable.

Kevlar’s enormous strength (and long fibre length) stops a bullet penetrating, but can’t stop the trauma of impact—a ‘trauma pack’ beneath a bulletproof vest is worn to dissipate the shock. It will still feel like you’ve been kicked by a mule.

All heads of state and high-risk personnel wear kevlar. In the US, in areas where there are spates of drive-by shootings or local battles going on, even children are sent to school in bulletproof clothing. It sounds extreme, but in one period in 1990 in Boston, 90 per cent of gunshot fatalities were innocent women and children caught in the crossfire of street fights.

Although kevlar will also stop grenade and bomb fragments from penetrating, it has been known to fail under impact from a knife or ice-pick. The head will always be vulnerable-there are ballistic helmets, but an important dignitary is unlikely to want to be seen wearing one to a function!

Bulletproof clothing has saved hundreds of lives, but doesn’t actually guarantee safety. Although the bullets won’t penetrate, there is likely to be bruising and even broken ribs. A company in the US (who claim to have saved many ‘important’ lives) actually demonstrate a bulletproof vest by having a man shoot himself. For the purposes of the demonstration he places two telephone directories under the vest to absorb the shock!

A lightweight vest

(A), which can be worn inconspicuously under a shirt and jacket, may be more comfortable—but cannot offer full protection. Adding layers of ‘protection’ means adding bulk

(B), but such a vest may still be worn under a coat. If subtlety’s not the aim,

(C) as an outer garment offers good protection and mobility. Uniforms, jackets and overcoats are all available with varying levels of ‘protection’ built in.


Most blastproofing is tailormade to the location—where blastproofing is possible at all. Cars tends to have layers of kevlar built into the bodywork or steel and plastic shielding. The underside of a car—vulnerable to bombs—can be made strong enough that a blast will lift the car but cause no actual damage within the vehicle.

Any building designed to withstand or contain a blast should have a bund—a blast wall constructed around it. The roof should be designed to collapse inwards, not to fragment and fly off. The blast wave takes the route of least resistance, so partition walls and glass will be the first and most likely barriers to be blown away. ALL glass should be laminated to reduce the risk of flying fragments, which is the cause of a majority of casualties.

Blast blankets made of kevlar may be draped over an explosive device and weighted with sandbags to cut down the damage done by a blast.


The majority of injuries caused by a bomb blast are from flying glass and debris. A muster point for the staff of a large building should ALWAYS be well away from this risk. If a bomb explodes near the general area where you are, do NOT go to inspect the damage. Terrorists sometimes use more than one device-to catch spectators and emergency services.