Suspicious packages-Part 1

Church bombings are on the rise, especially in countries outside of the United States. While the chances of a bombing are less likely than a church shooting (in the United States), we need to realize that the media is providing in-depth coverage into every aspect of recent bombings throughout the world. The media coverage itself  might inspire certain individuals in the U.S. to do the same, so it is possible that we will see more church bombings in the near future.

Just like church security is different for every church, the use of Improvised Explosive Devices (IED’s) can take many different forms, based on the mind of the bomber. IED’s are generally divided into four main categories: .

  • Package Devices
  • Carried by Individual Devices
  • Placed Devices
  • Car/truck Devices

There are no hard and fast rules in the type of explosive or the composition used to make them. Some of these categories could even be classified as multiple methods. As an example, a suicide bomber may be carrying a package so this individual would be using the package device and the individual device category at the same time.

Package devices can be in the form of a backpack, a briefcase, a suitcase, a mailed box or envelope or a whole host of other types of packages.

  • Someone wearing a backpack
  • A suitcase in the corner of the room
  • Someone carrying a briefcase
  • Boxes, possibly even wrapped as gift
  • Mailman delivering a package

Because there are so many possibilities, it may be difficult to identify what is a threat and what is not a threat. In most instances, if it seems odd or out of place, it may be an IED device. If there is backpack, suitcase, or some other package, and nobody claims this suspicious package as theirs, it might be time to take precautions. If a “never seen before visitor” comes to your church, and they have a package, backpack, suitcase, briefcase, or other items that could contain a bomb, it may be advisable to take precautions.

If an unfamiliar and unsolicited package arrives by mail, it might be time to take precautions. In fact, even mailed items can provide evidence that you should proceed with caution.

Identifying which packages should receive scrutiny is difficult. A good rule of thumb is to keep a watchful eye, and if something seems suspicious or out of place, it should be investigated by someone that knows what they are doing. Should you be fortunate enough to see a person leaving something suspicious, from a distance speak loudly and tell them they left the item behind. If they do not respond in an appropriate way, you should evacuate the building or area and immediately contact law enforcement.

 It is important to note that you should not turn any lights on or off, and you should not use radio’s or phones until you are clear of the area. If you were not fortunate enough to see the backpack, briefcase, suitcase, or other package being placed, you should quickly try to see if you can find an owner. If no owner can be found,  then the area should be evacuated and law enforcement should be called (from a safe distance).

 If the suspicious package is inside a building, then the entire building should be evacuated and go a safe distance from the building. If the package is outdoors, then an area of 200 feet or more should be cleared, depending on the size of the package and where it is placed. Under no circumstances should the package be touched or moved, and under no circumstances should you use any device that uses any form of electricity, including lights, cell phones and telephones, at least until you are well clear of the potential device.

Tomorrow, we will continue to discuss what you should look for in Part 2 of Suspicious Packages. Stay safe and grounded in the Lord, … Mark

Identifying potential bombers

Bombers, just like those carrying other weapons, will usually do things that indicate they may be up to no good. In most instances, a bomber in a house of worship is much easier to spot if you know what to look for. The key to spotting someone carrying an IED into a house of worship is to have situational awareness.

Similar to active shooters, bombers have specific psychological behaviors that tell us that the individual may have bad intentions. This can include nervousness, twitching, fidgeting, and profusely sweating. They may have no facial expression, they don’t smile or laugh when most people would, and/or something may not seem quite right. These are all behaviors that can be linked to a “fear of discovery” by criminals or terrorists

We can sometimes identify the physical behaviors of those carrying an IED or someone that might be a suicide bomber. In most instances suicide bombers  have certain looks and mannerisms. One or more people with a keen eye can in many instances spot these individuals in the parking lot, or as they enter your church.

Signs that someone may be wearing a suicide vest include wearing clothing that is uncommon for the season, such as a large jacket on a warm day, or they may be wearing a coat, suit jacket or windbreaker that appears to be too large to match their face and legs. As can be seen in the picture below, the person is wearing a large coat, much bigger than his frame. He is also wearing shorts, which is unusual.  He may be a homeless person, or he may be a bomber, but this is an uncommon behavior. No matter what the uncommon behavior is, it should raise red flags with the safety team and be investigated.

Another sign of explosives is that they may be walking uncharacteristically gentle, walking in a robotic manner, or they may be acting nervous and/or sweating. They may have controlled or shallow breathing, and in most instances they will not look anyone in the eye. They will usually stare straight ahead, sometimes as if they are looking right through you.

In cases of radical terrorists, you may see light skin on their face where they recently shaved a beard, or they may be mumbling prayers . They may keep one or both hand inside their pocket, or in the case of a backpack or bag bomb, they will be especially careful not to bump it.

There may be wires that can be seen running from the backpack or jacket back into their clothes. In many instances they will keep their hand their pocket or the bag, so they can keep their hand on the detonator. In some instances, they may keep the detonator outside of the pocket, especially if it is a dead man switch that triggers the IED when they let go of the trigger (see the second image).

 

While the vast majority of suicide bombers are male, it should be noted that there are female suicide bombers too. This holds especially true with religious zealots. If your church has trained safety and security personnel, there is an increased chance that they may be able to identify these individuals and isolate them from others, or exclude them from the church altogether. Either action will save lives!

Over the next few days, I will be blogging about the types of IED’s and how they may be delivered. As much as I dislike doing this, some of these posts may be discussing the same subject over multiple days, simply because there is so much information to share so we can keep you, and your church, safe. Until then, … Mark