According to authorities, the actor TJ Miller called 911 on March 18 while he was riding a train from Washington D.C. to New York City, claiming a woman with brown hair and a scarf “has a bomb in her bag.” Amtrak officials eventually stopped the train, detrained the passengers, and had bomb squad members search throughout— but detected no evidence of any explosive device or materials. It turns out Miller was on a different train, which was later inspected and also “found not to contain any explosive devices or materials,” per the report. After an Amtrak police official called Miller back, the actor insisted that the woman kept checking her bag and repeatedly asked the First-Class attendant what the next stop was, seemingly wanting to get off the train and leave the bag behind. Amtrak officers interviewed a First-Class attendant; however, they were told that Miller appeared intoxicated upon boarding the train and consumed multiple drinks on board. The attendant did not back up Miller’s account of the woman’s suspicious behavior, but instead alleged that the actor had “exchanged profanity” with a woman in the First-Class car — adding that Miller had consumed two glasses of wine and two double Scotch and sodas, and that he had been removed in New York due to his intoxication. The woman told police Miller was indeed being belligerent on the train and admits they had an argument after he made a comment about her hair. After speaking to all sides, police determined Miller called a false bomb threat as a result of the grudge he held against the woman. The FBI docs say Miller’s false report caused 926-man hours’ worth of delays and disrupted several bomb squads in Connecticut and New York. Miller appeared before a judge  and was released on $100,000 bond. He faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

The foregoing is an example of a hoax bomb threat and many threats do turn out to be false, but all have to be investigated until authorities are satisfied that either there is a device or that the threat is false. A hoax threat causes almost as much disruption as a real bomb and is a useful tool for terrorists whose aim is to cause alarm and disruption. Often perpetrators turn out to be disgruntled former employees or in some cases students have been known to use threats around exam times.

You can mitigate the chances of an actual device being planted by:

  • Overt guard force patrolling
  • Installation of burglar/intruder alarm systems and associated prominent signage
  • Robust Access Control measures
  • Employee Awareness Training

Preparedness is vital to ensure efficient response to such events. A risk assessment must be undertaken and from this should flow a realistic bomb incident plan. A designated Control Point and alternate must be identified (in large organizations this will be the Crisis management Center) and chain of command for such incidents should be established. Staff should be trained and take part in exercises covering this subject.

EXPLOSION OR BOMB THREAT PROCEDURES

If You Receive a Bomb Threat:

1. Stay calm and keep your voice calm.

2. Pay close attention to details. Talk to the caller to obtain as much information as possible.

3. Take notes. Ask questions:

  • When will it explode?
  • Where is it right now?
  • What does it look like?
  • What kind of bomb is it?
  • Where did you leave it?
  • Did you place the bomb?
  • Who is the target?
  • Why did you plant it?
  • What is your address?
  • What is your name?

4. Observe the caller’s:

  • Speech patterns (accent, tone)
  • Emotional state (angry, agitated, calm, etc.)
  • Background noise (traffic, people talking and accents, music and type, etc.)
  • Age and gender

5. Write down other data:

  • Date and time of call
  • If threat was not by phone note how threat was received (letter, note, SMS, face to face)

6. Call your supervisor and submit your notes from the telephone call or the bomb threat (letter or note) to your supervisor and Police.

IN ANY BOMB THREAT SITUATION

  • Check your work area for unfamiliar items. Do not touch suspicious items; report them to your supervisor and police.
  • Evacuate when instructed to do so. Take personal belongings when you leave as this will reduce clutter when the premises are searched
  • Leave doors and windows open; do not turn light switches on or off.
  • Use stairs only; do not use elevators.

IF THERE IS AN EXPLOSION

  • Take cover under sturdy furniture or leave the building if directed to do so by emergency responders.
  • Stay away from windows.
  • Do not strike matches or ignite lighters
  • Move well away from the site of the hazard to a safe location.
  • Use stairs only; do not use elevators.
  • Call your supervisor and simultaneously ensure police are informed

Merletti Gonzales Associates International Security Consultants are available to assist with all your needs for this type of incident. Our professional, experienced staff can provide the following assistance:

  • Crisis Management Training
  • Risk Assessments
  • Guard force training
  • Employee Awareness Training
  • Control Center design and advice on equipment
  • Site and building evacuation
  • Access Control Measures and advice on intruder alarms