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

Suspicious packages-Part 2

As you might have guessed, covering the potential for bombings in houses of worship is an extensive subject. While I am trying to provide you with information on how to prevent a bombing, I am essentially just touching the tip of the iceberg in this blog. If you, or your church are interested in learning more, I strongly suggest that you hire a professional to provide an on-sight class.

Continuing from yesterdays blog, I wanted to continue by starting with delivered packages. Delivered packages could include a package, or multiple packages, being delivered to the church by the postal service, FedEx, or UPS. These devices can be just as deadly as the larger devices discussed yesterday. Signs that should raise concern that the package may be a potential IED include:

  • Excessive Postage
  • Handwritten or poorly typed addresses
  • Strange return address or no return address
  • Incorrect titles or title without a name
  • Not addressed to a specific person

These package may also be:

  • Marked with threatening language
  • Postmarked from a city or state that does not match the return address
  • Marked with exceptions, such as “Personal”, “Confidential”, or “Do Not X-Ray”
  • Heavy on one side of the package
  • May have a wire  imprint in the package
  • May have a stain similar to oil leaking

If a package seems suspicious there are several precautions that should be taken.

If you have the package in your hands, you should gently and carefully placed on a flat level surface such as a desk or chair. If it is already sitting on a table, chair, or the mailbox, leave it there! You should then evacuate making sure not to use any electrical devices until everyone is a safe distance away from the potential device. Do not pull the fire alarm, turn lights on (or off), or use a cell phone while still in the area of the package. It is best to use a hard phone line, if at all possible, because a cell phone could be at a frequency that detonates the device. However, if the package and the phone are both in the building, you should evacuate the building, go a safe distance away from the building, and use a cellphone.

In the first blog of the week, we discussed ways to tell that someone may be carrying carried explosive device based on the behavioral mannerisms.

In looking at someone that have these mannerisms, you should also be aware of ways to better identify potential explosives in soft packages. You should be smelling for strange smells as well as looking for bumps or outlines. Things that should raise a red flag include:

Smells to watch for:

  • Diesel fuel
  • Gasoline
  • Fertilizer
  • Oil type odor
  • Tar
  • Bitter almonds
  • No smell at all

Bumps or outlines associated with explosive

  • Pieces of pipe
  • Propane cylinders (especially small canisters)
  • Rectangular or square blocks
  • Dynamite taped together
  • Grenade shapes
  • Leaking oil, or oil type stains

There could be other shapes as well, but these are the most common. In most instances the carried device is going to be a suicide bomber. They may be wearing it in a backpack, a suicide vest (under their coat) , or some other method that is typically hidden. These types of devices tend to have a greater rate of killing people because it is hidden, and typically they are not detonated until it can do the most damage.

The exception to killing many people, is if the bomber is caught, confronted, or otherwise disrupted before reaching their target. When this happens, more often than not, they blow themselves up where they have been confronted.

As was mentioned in previous previous blogs this week, identification of explosive devices may be difficult. The bomber 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, or they may keep a hand on the bag or backpack at all times. It may take a keen eye to identify wires that might be seen going from the backpack, or wires that go back into their clothes. These wires  are often hard to see, if they can be seen at all.

Typically, the reason they will keep their hand in their pocket (or the delivery device), is so they can keep their hand on the detonator at all times. Trained security or church personnel may be able to identify these individuals, and then isolate them from others.

Only those with specialized training should consider undertaking this task, and they should check with local law enforcement to identify where, and how, they can find this training in their area.

NEVER, under any circumstances should individuals who are not trained in explosives devices try to attack the bomber. The bomber may have what is known as a “dead-man” switch being held down by their thumb. If that pressure is released, the explosives will detonate. The act of attacking this individual may cause the explosive to detonate. Even physically detaining them (grabbing an arm or pushing them against a wall) could be lethal to all.

Tomorrow, I will be sharing a video that was unexpected while we were filming and the police department was using it as a training. The video I share should make you laugh, because it made us laugh! I will resume talking about bombs and bombings on Monday. May the Lord keep you safe until then, … Mark

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