Suspicious Packages-Part 3

Good morning and Happy New Year. Most of us make New Years resolutions, and I hope you and/or your church will make the resolution to use the information I (and other credible consultants) provide, to help make your church more safe and resilient against active shooters and bombers. Today, I am going to continue to share information on placed devices for active bombings.

Placed devices can be a package device or an explosive device that has no package, or is encased in something that creates a package. A placed device can have multiple types of triggers, including wired to a light switch, telephone, door, or fire alarm. It could have a trip wire, a hand contact, or a cell phone which detonates it.

Placed devices can be in mailboxes, out in the open, hidden in closets or under chairs or pews, or they can be in plain sight. The best way to prevent, and perhaps even mitigate, a placed explosive is good surveillance and situational awareness.

Bombers prefer the path of least resistance, what individuals in the homeland security and public safety field identify as soft targets. The church should try to deter bombers through hardening, or at least giving the appearance hardening to their church.  Something as simple as signs posted which say “All backpacks, briefcases, suitcases, and other packages are subject to inspection” might deter a bomber, especially if they have never been to your church before. This signage itself may, or may not help, nobody really knows for sure. It could be compared to a bluff in poker; can you fool the bomber into thinking they will get caught before they ignite the explosive? If so, they may choose an easier target.

If inspecting packages is an avenue your church wants to pursue, you should have a plan, and individuals who are trained to inspect items that are considered suspicious. It is important to note that inspecting packages without proper training is a recipe for disaster.

Also, should the church decide to inspect packages, those inspections should be in an area where it is less likely to harm others or cause damage to the church. It is at the churches discretion whether they want to post signage, or even inspect packages. There is no research that conclusively identifies or disputes signage or inspection of packages in a church as a deterrent, although there is data in war zones which indicates that this does work. While there is no evidence that it is a deterrent in churches, common sense tells us that the inspection of packages and individuals outside of the building will reduce the death over letting that explosive device into the building, where people are congregated.

The final, and perhaps the most difficult placed explosive to identify, is a car or truck bomb. It is however the least likely type of bomb delivery method. If a vehicle is placed in close proximity to the church, this may provide a clue that it may have explosives in it. If you come to church, and there is a strange car or truck parked in close proximity to the building, then it could potentially be a vehicle loaded with explosives. The first thing you should do is to keep individuals away from the vehicle and contact law enforcement from a safe distance, immediately!

If the rear end of the vehicle appears to be heavy (like it is loaded [based on the fact that it sits lower than the front]),  this too could be a sign of potentially being loaded with explosives. While some may say that this car (or truck) may be loaded with Bibles, or even books, you need to ask yourself “When was the last time someone delivered a truck load of Bibles or books to the church?”

Of course, you also need to use common sense. Are you expecting a new pastor and this might be their moving truck? Are you expecting a load of blankets to pass out to homeless individuals? Are you expecting a load of tracts and/or Bibles? If any of these fit, then you should probably not call the police unless there is something else suspicious.

If a suicide bomber is using a vehicle as a delivery device, then there are some precautions that could be taken. Of course, just like all of my recommendations, these are left to the discretion of the church as to whether they want to take security to this level. Gates could be put up to prevent someone from placing the vehicle when nobody is there. When people are at the church, rather than let any vehicle pull up to the front door, a safety and security team member could be placed at a portion of the driveway to allow only those that meet the churches protocols, to drive to the door. Those protocols would be regular members, elderly individuals, disabled individuals, known individuals, or something similar.

Again, this is up to the church, and should be based on the potential risk of a vehicle bombing. While it is unlikely that a security team could stop a car bombing, it may be a deterrent for someone with evil intentions. Seeing this type of security may cause them to never consider your church as a target, or they may detonate the explosives further from the building, which could result in less people getting injured.

As with any other explosive incident, law enforcement should be called as soon as possible if it is believed that there is a threat. Tomorrow,  I will discuss little known facts about how to survive an explosive device, should it get into your house of worship. Until then, … Mark