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Security procedures

Bomb threats and suspicious packages

The risk

Actual or threatened attacks by bombs, incendiary, biological or chemical devices pose a risk to all public institutions and more especially those engaged in political or sensitive activities.  Attacks or threats may also be made by persons with a real or imagined grievance against the institution or those who for various reasons wish simply to disrupt normal activities.

The incidence of terrorist attacked on non-political and non-military targets in the United Kingdom is relatively low although the threat level can change quickly depending on national international events.  In general, the government will issue heightened threat warnings if a terrorist campaign is suspected.  Lone threats by disaffected or disturbed individuals remain a constant and unpredictable possibility.

While safety is of paramount importance, a sense of perspective must be retained and threats assessed on the basis of likelihood.  The following guidance provided in conjunction with the police is intended to help members of staff deal with potential threats.  It replaces previous instruction and should be accessible to staff.

Suspicious packages and letters

Experience confirms that some devices are sent by post or courier and are designed to detonate or ignite when opened.  The effects may be localised but could result in the death or serious injury of persons in the immediate vicinity of the device, including anyone attempting to open the package.

More recently there have been instances of envelopes or parcels containing harmful biological or chemical substances intended to contaminate recipients through inhalation or contact with skin or hoax substances intended to cause fear.  As these substances cannot be identified until analysed they must be treated as potentially dangerous and should not be touched under any circumstances.

Envelopes, parcels and padded jiffy bags have all been used to contain devices.

What to look for

Some things can help to identify a suspicious package and members of staff whose duties include opening mail should know these signs especially if the unit or department is engaged in sensitive work.

  • The items may have been delivered by hand or posted from an unusual place.
  • It may display poor or strange handwriting.
  • There may be unusual smell such as marzipan or machine oil.
  • Wiring or tinfoil may have been exposed by bad packaging.
  • It may be unusually heavy or its weight may be badly distributed.
  • There may be excessive wrapping or the contents may feel rigid.
  • It may be wrongly addresses or come from an unexpected source.
  • There may be to many postage stamps for the size of the package.
  • There may be traces of powder, or the envelope may feel as though it contains such a substance.

There are only some of the indicators - in all cases if there is any doubt the item should be left alone and the following action taken.

What to do

If a package or letter has passed through a postal or courier services it will have been subjected to fairly rough handling and should not therefore pose a threat unless opened or damaged.  If it is intact:

  • LEAVE IT ALONE.
  • Leave the room immediately ensuring that everyone else does so and clear the immediate vicinity such as an adjoining room so that no one has to pass through.
  • Lock the door(s) to prevent access by others and retain the keys.
  • Contact the University Security Manager on 07990 784356 and the Deputy Principal on (01334 46) 2548 or 07900 607690 - outside working hours contact the University security officer on 0 (internal) or 01334 476161 (external).
  • Whether or not the above have been contacted telephone the police (9-999) and give precise details of the location remembering that you will be connected to a call centre and the operator may be unfamiliar with the University layout.
  • Notify the Deputy Principal as soon as possible (if not already contacted).

If present, the building or school Security Co-ordinator should take control of the situation until the arrival of the security manager or the police to ensure that no one is permitted to re-enter the closed area.

Evacuating the building

If the letter or package has been damaged and there is concern as to its content, where for example there are exposed wires or some seepage of powder, safety is the chief consideration and standard fire evacuation procedures should be implemented:

  • Sound the fire alarm.
  • Ensure persons assemble at the fire assembly points.
  • Prevent further access to the building.

At the assembly point the security co-ordinator can further assist by looking out oe anyone acting suspiciously or observing the proceedings ¿ it could be the person responsible for the suspect package.

Telephone warnings

Telephone callers may make claims that a bomb or other device has been planted in a particular building.  As a pre-emptive measure, good housekeeping routines should be in place to minimise the accumulation of rubbish and to make sure that boxes are stored away.  This makes it much easier to identify suspicious objects if a search has to be made, and more difficult for the perpetrator to leave such objects.

While many telephone warnings are made maliciously, the possibility of t he call being genuine cannot be discounted and it must be regarded as real.  In addition, it is a criminal offence to make a call of this nature so the police will investigate whatever the eventual outcome.

On receiving a call

The receipt of a bomb call or similar threat is stressful and difficult, particularly if the caller in abusive or agitated but the police will require as much information as possible about the call and the caller to determine the likely authenticity and to gather evidence for a subsequent criminal investigation.

The checklist appended to this guidance helps the recipient to focus on important information.  Recipients should tick as much detail as they possibly can, remembering to listen carefully at the same time.  By concentrating too much on the checklist, an important key word or detail could be missed.

Stay calm and in control and treat the call as genuine.  As best you can, note everything that is said using the checklist as an aid.

Action

If the call relates to your building take the following action:

  • Telephone the police (9-999) and give precise details of the location remembering that you will be connected to a call centre and the operator may be unfamiliar with the University layout.
  • Contact the University Security Manager on 07990 784356 and the Deputy Principal on (01334 46) 2548 or 07900 607690 - outside working hours contact the University security officer on 0 (internal) or 01334 476161 (external).
  • In any event, notify the Deputy Principal as soon as possible.

If the caller related to another University building:

  • Contact the relevant Head of School/Unit or secretary without delay and advise them of the call and the foregoing action.

Thereafter, within the building, staff should implement standard fire evacuation procedures:

  • Sound the fire alarm.
  • Ensure persons assemble at the fire assembly points.
  • Prevent further access to the building.

Again, the security co-ordinator can assist by remaining observant at the assembly point for anyone acting suspicious.

After the event

The carnage resulting from bomb explosions is known to anyone who watches television or reads newspapers and incidents such as this, even where the result is a hoax or genuine false alarm, can be upsetting and distressing to individuals.  In addition to pastoral services provided by the university, the national Victim Support Scheme (www.victimsupport.org.uk) offers counselling and advice to all victims of crime.

Opportunities to learn from the incident should also be taken and the Head of School/Unit and University Security Manager should arrange to de-brief to determine what went well and what could be improved upon.  Feedback from all affected members of staff is important.

Stewart Davidson
Security Manager

Contact

Mr Andy Edmonston

Estates
Woodburn Place
St Andrews
Fife
KY16 8LA
Scotland, United Kingdom

Tel: 01334 463967

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