The purpose of the information in this chapter is to give you a relatively simple understanding of the way that bombs work. It is hoped that this knowledge will assist you in making the right decision should you ever come across something of which you are suspicious. The best advice whenever you come across anything that you think is suspicious is always the same:
Improvised Explosive Device (IED)
The bomb is the most common form of weapon used by terrorists, though the use of improvised explosive devices is not just a weapon of the terrorist as many people, from the criminal to disgruntled employees, can and do use bombs to further their aims. A bomb can be hidden in a car or truck, strapped to the waist of a suicide bomber, delivered to your door by the postman or placed in the hold of a passenger aircraft.
Why are Bombs such a common Weapon?
An advantage of the bomb over other murderous weapons is that the bomber does not have to be there: he could be thousands of miles away when the bomb detonates. Compare that to using a knife or gun, where the perpetrator has to be there and the chances of his being captured or killed are quite high.
In many countries around the world, there is strict control of all lethal weapons. The illegal procurement of a gun to kill a particular person can in many countries prove quite difficult. By obtaining a gun from the underworld the terrorist or criminal is then involving other persons who could eventually testify or identify them should they ever be caught.
Almost Every Schoolboy can make a bomb
A few innocent items purchased from the hardware store or garden centre and with a small amount of easily obtainable knowledge (public libraries or the internet for instance) the average person can make an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) for a very small amount of money and with little or no risk of being discovered. It is this simplicity and anonymity that makes the bomb a favourite weapon for many criminals and terrorist organisations around the world.
The Components of a Bomb
A bomb can be broken down into five main components:
- Time and Power Unit
- A Detonator or Igniter
- The Explosives or Incendiary Mix
- Arming Switch (Optional)
- Booby Trap (Optional)
Time & Power Unit
Time and Power is to be discussed as one unit; however, they can be two distinct parts of the bomb in their own right. The time element in a bomb’s make up is important to the terrorist in two ways. First, he needs time to escape the bomb’s blast and make his getaway. Second, he may employ time to create the blast at an exact time of his choosing. He can create this time delay in a number of ways. For instance, chemical delays can start the explosion (acid takes a specific time to ‘eat through’ a wrapping and often the wrapping is made of condoms). Mechanical timers might be alarm clocks, watches, memo parking timers, kitchen timers, etc. Electronic timers include computer- controlled ones, such as those found in a home video or DVD recorder, etc. He can also detonate a bomb at a time of his choosing ‘on command’. He might do this with remote control, or use command wires of the type you may have seen soldiers blow up bridges on TV. Not all bombs have a time element. However, they will all have a power unit of some description; the modern terrorist will invariably use electricity as the power to initiate his explosive device, and he will use batteries ninety-nine percent of the time to provide the small amount of electricity needed.
Battery technology has advanced leaps and bounds since the nineteen seventies and eighties. They have reduced in size considerably and will hold their power for a number of years. Most people have a small marvel of a 1.5 volt battery on the wrist, as quartz watches require this constant power. Meanwhile, many will be familiar with the very thin batteries that are placed inside Christmas cards that when opened will play the tune of ‘jingle bells’ quite happily until Easter! It is battery technology like this that makes it much easier for the terrorist to make letter bombs for instance.
Detonator or Igniter
Detonators detonate explosives and igniters ignite incendiary mixes. Detonators are needed to provide the initial ‘kick’ that is required to set off a high explosive charge; they contain a small amount of explosives encased in a metal tube. Most modern explosives in good condition will not explode without one. Igniters are used to ignite incendiary mixes and can be as simple as a torch bulb that has had the glass broken, so that when a current passes through it, the filament glows hot and ignites the incendiary mixture. Incendiary mixes can be prepared from easily obtainable household items, such as weed killer and sugar.
These devices are used as ‘fire bombs’ to destroy property rather than people. They are placed in buildings near combustible materials, timed to go off in the middle of the night, or when the fire is least likely to be detected. They can cause many thousands of pounds worth of damage. The devices themselves are small enough to fit into a cigarette packet.
The fundamental concept behind explosives is very simple. At the most basic level, an explosive is just something that burns or decomposes very quickly, producing a lot of heat and gas in a short amount of time.
Explosives come in many forms, from basic black powders (gunpowder) found in fireworks and shotgun propellants, to modern plastic explosives. The latter are used mainly by the military but now all too often fall into the hands of terrorists or criminals. In between these there are many commercially produced dynamites used for blasting in quarries and for underwater demolition, etc. Not only do the terrorists find the explosives easy to obtain, they can also make their own! But usually they prefer to use plastic explosives. For example, Plastic Bonded Explosive (PBX) is made by binding a substance like polyisobutylene with an explosive such as RDX cyclotrimethylenetrinitramine (C3H6N6O6), sometimes called cyclonite, or hexogen. The binder has two important jobs:
It coats the RDX, so it’s less sensitive to shock and heat. This makes it relatively safe to handle.
It makes the explosive material highly malleable, much like children’s play stuff. You can mould it into different shapes for cutting and changing the direction of the explosion.
High explosives need to receive a powerful boost to kick off the chemical reaction. Because of the stabiliser elements used in their makeup, it takes a considerable shock to set off this reaction; you can throw plastic explosives on a fire (if you feel the need to) and it will just burn, it will not detonate. Soldiers have been known to burn plastic explosives as an improvised cooking fire. Contrary to what Hollywood might have you believe, shooting at the plastic explosives, even with a high velocity weapon, will probably not detonate them. That is a job for the detonator.
When the detonator starts the chemical change in the explosives, it decomposes to release a variety of gases, such as nitrogen and carbon oxides. The gases initially expand at an incredible speed of more than five miles a second, applying a huge amount of force to everything and anyone in the surrounding area. In action movies, we often see our hero outrunning an explosion, but, in reality, no one can outrun an explosion. In one second everything is normal and in the very next second the explosive and everything around it is totally destroyed.
It is a tribute to the inventors that plastic explosives are so safe to handle and have remained stable for years. Indeed, the author has handled plastic explosives that was over 25 years old, and was as good as new.
Arming switches are built into bombs so that they can be transported in relative safety. Then when the bomber is near the target, or places the bomb, the bomb can be activated. The switch can be as simple as just a break in the electrical circuit which is operated by a switch or as complex relays of barometric switches that can ‘arm’ the bomb at a pre-set height above sea level, should the bomb be on an aircraft.
A bomb can be a booby trap in its own right, that is to say, it will not go off until the anti-handling device is activated. A bomb that is designed to be triggered by remote control or by time delay can also incorporate a booby trap. The terrorist’s train of thought here is that should his bomb be discovered before, let’s say, the timer activates it, he can booby trap it so that any attempt at moving or defusing the device will result in detonation, thereby going some way to achieving his main aim. It is for this reason that all suspect devices should be considered booby trapped. Booby traps are victim operated. Do not become a victim.
BOOBY TRAPS ARE VICTIM OPERATED
For a booby trap to achieve its aim, it obviously must not give the appearance of being booby trapped. IEDs can be booby trapped very easily, and ninety percent of the time, the more simple the trap the greater the chance of the bomber’s success. To show this simplicity we will discuss a few easily obtained items that the bomber can use to construct booby traps. Booby traps that rely on pressure, either ‘pressure on’ or ‘pressure off’ are two of the most common and simplest to set up.
Pressure Mats, which keep two parts of the electronic circuit apart by foam or similar material are activated when trodden upon complete the circuit, these can be made quite simply or be purchased off the shelf as a component part of a ‘do it yourself’ burglar alarm.
Most people are familiar with the rather large micro switches that are used in fridges (to turn the light on and off) and cars (operating the courtesy light). However, as a trip to any high street electrical store will show, these switches come in very small sizes and for a few pence, you can purchase a tiny switch, which can be adapted to let an electric current pass through it when pressure is either applied or removed.
It is a simple operation to wire a photosensitive cell into a bomb’s circuit and when light hits the cell, it allows the electrical current to pass through it thereby enabling the current to reach the detonator. Bombs of this type can be placed in a darkened garage and when the car headlights hit it, the bomb detonates. The light sensitive cell also has limited potential for triggering letter or parcel bombs when they are opened, allowing light to hit the cell.
The humble clothes peg can be adapted to the bomb maker’s needs in a variety of ways. It can be turned into a reliable timer, and push or pull type of pressure off triggers. The mercury tilt switch, infamous for being used as the triggering system that killed MP Airey Neave at the House of Commons car park in 1979, can be easily incorporated into a bomb and costs only a few pence. The way they work is simplicity itself: the circuit is broken by two wires inside a glass vial; if the vial is tilted, mercury rolls to the circuit wire, bridges them and completes the circuit.
When something is suspicious – The 4C’s
It doesn’t matter whether we are suspicious of a suspect car, which could contain many hundreds of pounds of explosives, or a suspicious-looking letter that has been delivered by the postman. Our reactions and drills will always be the same. We follow the rule of the 4 Cs:
Firstly, we confirm our decisions. Are we suspicious? If so, carry on with the 4Cs. ‘Confirm’ does not mean, go and get your boss so he can have a look! Nor does it mean going nearer to the suspect item to see if you can see or hear one of the essential components, e.g. “It’s not ticking”; “I can’t smell anything!”; “I can’t see a booby trap!” This is not what the confirm means.
Many people get this wrong! Over the years I have seen some ridiculous confirms. I have seen policemen kick an item to see if it’s a bomb! Can you believe that! Well, it’s true. I have also seen a policeman open the two locks on a large leather briefcase, which had been reported as suspect, near the vicinity of two British princesses at a charity fashion show in Chelsea. He lay down and faced the other way as he clicked open the locks. Maybe he thought that laying down and facing the other way would protect him if a couple of pounds of high explosives exploded inches from him. I was told about this by another policeman after the incident. Even though I was there, I had moved in the general direction of away as soon as someone shouted up the suspicious case, so I was well out of the way when those locks clicked open! I later asked the ‘hero policeman’ why he hadn’t just arranged for the princesses to go out of the rear and called in the experts. His response was, “Why? It was only a briefcase.” I wonder if that idiot is still around.
I witnessed another example of the wrong way to confirm while watching a TV documentary about a man from Liverpool, who was training some Bodyguards in the art of vehicle search. A young trainee had just noticed that in the foot-well of the car he was searching was a bomb. It looked like the type of bomb you would see on the set of a Mel Gibson movie – sticks of explosives, a clock and curly wires, etc. There was no way that it could be mistaken for anything else. The young guy did the right thing and ran away as fast as he could. He was then stopped by his instructor, who asked him what was happening. He replied by telling the instructor he had seen a bomb in the car. The instructor barked at him, “What are you going to do now?” The trainee declared he would run away. “No you won’t,” said the instructor, “you will carry out the 4Cs. What’s the first C?” The trainee couldn’t remember; the stress was too much for him. The instructor then reminded him that the first C was to confirm his suspicions. The trainee claimed that he didn’t need to confirm anything and described the obvious bomb that he had seen. However, the instructor insisted that he go back to the vehicle and confirm. He did so under duress. This is absolutely wrong; it’s exactly what you should not do.
Confirming your suspicions does not mean going back to the Bomb!
Confirming your suspicions needs a bit of thought. Why are you suspicious? Let’s say that you are working as part of a security advance party, working half an hour ahead of your Principal, checking over a hotel in which the Principal has a one hour meeting. You notice in the large reception/meeting area of the hotel a small airline carry-on type bag that has been left unattended. Immediately, you are suspicious. There are lots of other bags in the reception but they are all accompanied. So how do you confirm your suspicions? Want you don’t do is go anywhere near it (not even if you’ve seen on TV a guy from Liverpool urging someone to do the same). Try to confirm or allay your suspicions by being sensible. Turn off any mobile communications, speak to reception or the concierge. Do they know who the bag belongs to? Ask to speak to security, get them working on the problem. They may well just walk right up to it and move it for you (while you, of course, move in the general direction of away!). That would be most helpful. They may be complacent, seeing lots of unattended bags every day. They haven’t been blown up yet, so why should today be any different? Once the case is moved and you’re happy, the meeting your Principal has scheduled can go ahead.
If you cannot find the owner of the bag, you have decisions to make. You’ve confirmed your suspicions; the bag is a threat. Your threat assessment might have your Principal to be the last person that someone would want to blow up. Your Principal might not be the intended target, but this makes little difference, as bombs are indiscriminate killers. You have to get a message to the Principal or the Bodyguard, let them know you have a problem and what that problem is. The Bodyguard and the Principal will decide what to do next; more often than not they will move in the general direction of away. Ask yourself why you’re suspicious. Depending upon the answers you come up with, you will dismiss it or move on to the second of the 4 Cs.
The ‘Clear’ procedure, the second of the 4 Cs, differs depending on whether you are in a public or private place when you discover something you think is suspicious.
Clear means, clear the area of people, and move them to a safe area so that no one will be killed or injured if your suspicious item turns out to be a bomb. However, common sense must prevail when we are in a public place. If we are back in that hotel with the suspect bag, we might well make the decision to stop the Principal from attending the hotel, but should we evacuate the whole hotel?
The chances of the bag being ‘just a bag’ are a lot higher than it being a bomb. Just because we are not prepared to take the risk and have our Principal anywhere near it does not mean that we should start shouting for everyone to leave the building. If the hotel staff evacuated every time there was a piece of unattended luggage in reception, they would spend a lot of time on the pavement/sidewalk. In this instance, it would be prudent to make sure that the hotel reception/security is made aware of your suspicions, before you and your team clear the area. It is not our job to be evacuating public places; get it right and you might be a hero but get it wrong, and you will probably be sued for loss of business and countless other claims for loss and stress. Let people know and then go.
If we find something that we think could be a bomb and we are on private property, such as the Principal’s residence, office or yacht, clear means exactly that. Clear the area of you and everyone else, sound the alarm and carry out your previously planned and practised evacuation procedure to a safe area.
Evacuations should never be left to chance, especially in large houses, boats and offices. These drills must be practised. Maybe you can get the Principal to take part in your drills, but you probably will not. This doesn’t really matter as long as everyone else knows what they’re doing; they can ensure that the Principal gets to where he should be. Drills must be regular, practice makes perfect. In the heat of the moment it’s very easy to carry out an evacuation and to forget someone. Your boss won’t thank you for not evacuating one of his guests or a family pet.
When evacuating, remember that the biggest killer can be the blast wave and what’s contained in it, such as glass and debris. You need to plan the safe area to evacuate to; this will probably not be the same area that you evacuate to in the event of fire. You may well need more than one evacuation plan. Your procedure might be completely different for a suspect bomb that’s found in a car at the front of the building to the procedure you plan in the event of something being found in the post room inside the building.
Place a cordon around the area at a safe distance to stop anyone inadvertently entering the danger area. This might be as simple as securing the post room after a dodgy item of mail has been discovered and not letting someone wander into the building
The last of the 4Cs is ‘Control’ and by this we mean control the whole situation. This will involve ensuring that the Principal gets to a place of safety, the cordon remains intact, that everyone is accounted for, and emergency services are called for. Always ensure, if possible, that the person who has seen or discovered the suspect item is available for the police or bomb squad to interview.
If the 4Cs are carried out promptly, we stand a good chance of saving life. The worst thing you can do is delay the implementation of the 4 Cs by getting a second opinion to confirm your suspicious, etc. Have the courage of your convictions; if your suspect package turns out to be something quite legitimate, don’t worry. It’s better to be safe than blown to bits!
Bombs in the Post
Letter bombs, which include parcels, packages and anything delivered by post or courier, have been a commonly used terrorist device.
Your risk assessment should give you a good idea of the likely threat to your Principal and indicate the precautions you need to take.
Letter bombs have traditionally been explosive or incendiary but these days they could conceivably be chemical, biological or radiological. When you receive a suspicious delivery you will have no idea what particular type it is, so your Action-On Drills should be flexible enough to cover different eventualities.
If you are sure that a letter has been through the normal postal service then you can assume that the bomb will have received substantially rough handling in the post, so it’s unlikely to detonate when being moved. As our postal services seem to get worse and it takes longer and longer to receive a letter, it is highly unlikely that a letter bomb will be programmed to explode at a particular time. Letter bombs are booby traps and as we now know, booby traps are victim operated and any attempt at opening them may set them off. However, if a suspect package was delivered by courier, then there may well be a timer involved as when sending things by courier the terrorist or criminal can be much more accurate with delivery times.
Letter bombs come in a variety of shapes and sizes; a well-made one will look innocuous, but there may be a number of tell-tale signs that can lead you to become suspicious of it. By themselves, these signs may be innocent, but a combination of a few and you will need a cautious approach. If you have access to equipment such as x-ray scanners and explosive detectors then use them to support or allay your fears.
The 7S’s of Bombs in the Post
Is the letter big enough to house a device without being obvious? A bomb-making expert could probably booby trap an airmail letter, but, generally speaking, the envelope has to be reasonably large to accommodate the components. Padded envelopes, or ‘jiffy bags’ are a popular choice. Does it seem unusually heavy for its size? Most regular letters weigh up to about 30g, whereas an effective letter bomb will have to weigh 50-100g and will probably be at least 5mm thick.
Is the package oddly shaped or lopsided? Are there lumps, denoting the possibility of batteries or a switching system? Tubes that are commonly used to protect documents through the post have been used as bombs.
Do you recognise the handwriting? Is the writing in an unfamiliar foreign style? Check the postmark. Where did it come from? Does the label match the area from where it came? Is it unexpected, of unusual origin or from an unfamiliar sender? Is there no return address? Can you verify the address? Is it poorly or inaccurately addressed? For instance, incorrect title, spelt wrongly, title but no name or addressed to someone no longer associated with your Principal.
Is there no stamp? Maybe it was hand-delivered or arrived by other means. Is the postmark blurred, or smudged or missing? Does it have more than the appropriate value of stamps for its size and weight? The terrorist may well put extra postage stamps on the bomb because the last thing he needs is for it to be returned to sender!
Has the letter been sealed more securely denoting it is containing something that must be kept in – tape, staples, etc? Is the envelope flap stuck down completely (a normal letter usually has an un-gummed gap of around 35mm at the corners)? Is the letter or parcel heavily sealed at one end, inviting you to open it from the other? Is there is a pin-sized hole in the envelope or package wrapping?
Is there an oily stain showing through the envelope or oily fingerprints on the outside? Some explosives can weep small amounts of an oily type of liquid that will produce stains.
Explosives can smell particularly the nitro glycerines and nitro toluenes. Is there a strange smell such as almonds or marzipan? If there is it could be a bomb, or then again it could be a cake!
Dealing with large amounts of mail
Although any suspect item should be treated seriously, remember that the great majority will be false alarms and depending upon who your Principal is, you may receive some hoaxes. You must ensure that your procedures for dealing with dodgy mail is effective and not needlessly disruptive. Remember the second Principal of personal security;
Security measures must be commensurate with the threat. Consider the following when planning for letter bombs.
1. Make sure that you are aware of the modus operandi of persons/organisations identified in your threat assessments. Seek advice from your local police, who may well have information that you can put to good use.
2. Process all incoming mail and deliveries at one point only. On high risk assignments this should ideally be off-site or in a separate building, or at least in an area that can easily be isolated and in which deliveries can be handled without taking them through other parts of the building.
3. Make sure that all staff who handle the mail at the central point are well briefed and properly trained.
4. Ensure that you have a designated safe area for placing suspect packages. Choose an area that does not hinder a safe evacuation. Ensure everyone knows where that safe area is, Ensure that the safe area is easily accessible to the police/bomb squad and their equipment.
5. Ensure that all sources of incoming mail (e.g. Royal Mail, couriers, and hand delivery) are included in your screening process.
6. Ideally, the designated post room should have independent air conditioning and alarm systems, as well as scanners and x-ray machines.
7. Your post room should have protective equipment, such as gloves, overalls and face masks.
8. The post room should be easy to evacuate; the staff that works there should practise the evacuation procedures and routes.
9. Once an evacuation has been made, ensure that no one can inadvertently wander near to the suspect package. Prepare signs to display to staff in the event of a suspected or actual attack.
Vehicle bombs are fast becoming one of the most effective weapons in the terrorist’s arsenal. They are capable of delivering massive amounts of explosives, driving the cars right up to their target area and causing a great deal of damage. There are three types of car bomb
Under vehicle improvised explosive device (UVIED)
A UVIED is a type of small victim-operated booby trap IED, placed in, on or under a vehicle. It is designed to explode when the vehicle moves, killing or injuring the occupants. Many people have been killed over the years with UVIEDs. Many of the victims would have seen the IED if only they had bothered to look.
Vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED)
A VBIED is a car or van filled with explosive, driven to a target and then detonated. Rather than a bomb being attached to the car or van, the car is the bomb. VBIEDs can carry large amounts of explosives and are capable of killing large numbers of people and causing structural damage to buildings.
Large vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (LVBIED)
An LVBIED is usually a large lorry or truck filled with explosives. These vehicles enable the terrorist or criminal to carry several tonnes of high explosives right up to the intended target. They are capable of causing many casualties and major destruction of property, over a range that can be measured in thousands of square metres.
The bomb makers can make the bomb many miles away from the intended target. They can then drive the bomb to the target and detonate it by remote control or use a driver prepared to commit suicide.
UVIEDs can be thwarted by the regular use of cursory and systematic searches. But if your Principal is at risk from people who might use a VBIED or a LVBIED, then you need to have systems in place to combat them.
You should ensure that you have an effective access control system and that you employ sensible parking restrictions in vulnerable areas.
Wherever possible you should use physical barriers to keep all unauthorised vehicles at a safe distance.
Vehicles that are permitted to approach your building should ideally be authorised in advance and then searched on arrival. The identity of the driver should also be cleared in advance and then checked immediately on arrival.
Wherever there is a risk of VBIEDs you should ensure that you make your building as blast resistant as possible. This might include physical blast barriers and window film, etc.
Close Protection Officers, along with everyone else in civilized society, are rightly scared of and not quite sure how to defend against the new phenomenon of the suicide bomber.
The concept of killing oneself while killing others is definitely not a new warfare tactic, nor is it confined to the Middle East. World War II Japanese Kamikaze pilots were suicide bombers as were the 9/11 hijackers.
This new era of suicide bombings was thrust upon the world by the Islamic terrorist movement Hezbollah. In 1983, Hezbollah suicide truck-bombers killed 64 U.S. embassy workers in Beirut. Later the same year, again using a suicide truck-bomber, Hezbollah killed 200+ people in a U.S. Marine compound near Beirut. These Lebanon attacks were so successful that terrorists began to adopt the suicide-bombing tactic worldwide.
How Would a Suicide Bomber Attack?
Though the 9/11 terrorists were, or course, suicide bombers, the most common forms of suicide attack will likely involve terrorists hiding explosives strapped onto their bodies, carrying bombs in bags or suitcases, or delivering explosives by a car, van or a truck. We can predict with some certainty the type of suicide attack we should expect in the West by looking at the long history of suicide attacks in the Middle East.
A suicide bomber in Europe or the US would more than likely be an Islamic fundamentalist, either from al-Qaeda or a Palestinian extremist group such as Hamas or Hezbollah.
The target of a suicide bomber would rarely be an individual and would almost certainly be a highly populated space and a well-known, public area. Whenever the Close Protection Officer is a prime target with his Principal (or without) he should be extra vigilant to spot suicide bombers. Prime targets include:
- Underground trains or buses and subways
- Restaurants, discos, nightclubs and casinos
- Shopping centres
- Train or bus stations
- Airport check-in lines
- Schools and universities
- Sports stadiums
- Cinemas and theatres
- Churches, temples and other religious gatherings
What can the Suicide Bomber Achieve?
A suicide bomber will try to place himself and his bomb wherever he thinks he will kill the most people. Just a single suicide bomber can carry enough explosive on his body to kill or seriously injure everyone onboard a train or bus. Or, if he is in an open area he could kill and maim anyone in a 50-foot radius and injure many more beyond that. A bomber driving a truck can carry hundreds of pounds of explosives and can devastate large areas of a city.
Surviving a Suicide Attack
To survive a suicide bomber and the inevitable pandemonium and disruptions that follow, your Action On Drills will depend upon your proximity to the bomber and your actual location.
The Principal’s Residence or Office
If you are at the Principal’s home or office when you learn of a suicide bombing in or near your city, you must take the Principal to your safe room. Gas masks should be worn until you are sure that the bomb was not a radiological dispersal device (dirty bomb). You should remain there, listening to radio and TV reports or other reliable media sources for at least two hours. There are often secondary follow-on bombings and you do not want to be on the roads.
If you are unlucky enough to be within one mile of any bang or explosion that sounds like a bomb, you must presume it was a dirty bomb. That is, until you hear otherwise from a reliable media source although this could take a couple of hours. Meanwhile, ensure that in the safe room all vents, air conditioners and windows are closed. Use gaffer tape and plastic sheeting on air vents and anywhere else where air pollutants may gain entry.
Suicide bombings on buses and trains such as those on 7/7 in London have been lethal. The safest spots may be near the back of the train carriage or bus, away from the entrance. On the underground, select a less-crowded carriage towards the rear of the train. Due to the confined nature of busses and trains it is likely that you will be killed or injured. If a bomb is detonated in another carriage and you and your Principal are survivors, then think ACE: Assess, Cover and Control and then Evacuate. You must be aware of other dangers – secondary bombs and live train rails.
Walking with the Principal outside a Public Venue
If you are walking or sitting outside and a suicide bomber strikes nearby: at the first flash or blast, take the Principal to ground immediately. Hit the ground hard and get as low as possible to avoid debris and smoke. If there is natural cover, use it as additional shelter. Expect a secondary device! Think ACE!
Beware of building collapse. Buildings in the vicinity of a bomb can suffer catastrophic damage and collapse. Once you’ve ACE’d out of the immediate area, get away from any other structures that are burning or damaged. ALWAYS assume until told otherwise that the bomb was ‘dirty’.
Increasing your Chances of Surviving the Suicide Bomber
Avoid the bomber’s likely target spots. If you’re Principal must visit these places then try not to do so at the busiest times. Experience tells us that suicide bombers use the busiest times to kill more people and use the cover of the crowds to remain undetected. Avoid queues, especially at airports and train stations. When entering and leaving such places let the main crowds disperse before you approach.
Always look for natural cover, and use it whenever you can. Look for things that can shield you from the blast. Assume that the blast may well come from the largest crowd or the main entrance to the airport or station, but keep away from large windows as the damage done by glass in an explosion is massive. Don’t stand too close to large building walls as the bomb’s shockwave can travel along walls and if the ‘fast wind’ doesn’t get you then any shrapnel or debris in it will.
Identifying the suicide bombers
Most of the suicide bombers in Israel are Arab men aged 18 to 22 years old, but the Israelis have learned to their cost that anyone, young or old, can be a suicide bomber. Old women, young girls and men disguised as Israelis have all detonated bombs that they wore. A bomber carrying explosives on his body will need to disguise the bomb, so be suspicious if you see someone wearing a winter jacket on a hot day. Far less obvious are bombers that carry explosives in a bag or suitcase. Witnesses/survivors of attacks have said that they have seen the bombers messing/fiddling with the bags just prior to detonation. To ensure that their passage to martyrdom is complete, bombers have been seen to clutch the bags to their chests just before detonation. Studies of video tapes of suicide bombings show that many of the bombers appeared, understandably, to be very anxious and apprehensive, and that many appeared to be acting suspiciously and drenched in sweat.
You should remain alert to the following
- Persons wearing unseasonably warm clothing
- Anyone with protruding bulges under his or her clothing
- Persons who are sweating, mumbling, or fidgeting
- Persons that are trying to avoid security personnel
- Persons with a pale face from recently shaving off a beard.
- Persons that are trying to fit into crowds that they would not usually belong with
Anyone who is in a public place and appears to be in any way suspicious should set your internal alarm bells ringing. ACE out of there as quickly as you can.
There may well be occasions where you cannot evacuate. Passengers on the Air France flight had nowhere to run from Richard Reid, the so-called ‘shoe bomber’; they had to tackle him there and then. Stopping the bomber from detonating the bomb is the only way. This might mean wrestling him to the ground and literally holding his arms. Some brave Israelis have rugby-tackled bombers from behind, anticipating that they will use their arms to instinctively break their fall rather than detonate the bomb. Others say that two well-placed bullets in the head will stop the bomber, but, of course, there is no fool- proof way to deter the suicide bomber. Just lots of vigilance, common sense and, I guess, a lot of luck.
It is said that “a little knowledge can be a dangerous” this is especially true when talking about bombs and improvised explosive devices. Bombs of any description should be treated with the utmost respect. You need to ensure that you are never in the vicinity of a bomb, but if you find that you are, then move the the general direction of………. away. Never go near anything that you are suspicious of. Turn your radio and mobile phone off, then call in the experts. Watch how bomb disposal experts, with years of experience will do anything to avoid going anywhere near the bomb. Let us follow their example.