A policy for dealing with telephone threats and suspect packages, may be advisable, even if, to avoid concern, the contents are made known to only a few employees. Conversely, some organisations, being more prone to such threats, may need to alert their staff by distributing the policy widely.

Telephone Threats

Most threats (the police estimate that over 95% are hoaxes) are made by telephone by disaffected employees or ex-employees. Receptionists and telephonists should be coached to deal with such calls.

Checklist - Dealing with a Threat Call
  1. Accept call in a calm, unhurried manner. Ask caller to repeat the sentence or message to give yourself time to recover and, without alerting the caller, to advise someone who can listen in.

  2. Try to keep caller talking - 'I'm sorry this is a bad line - I can't hear you clearly', or 'I don't understand what you mean - could you repeat that please so that I get it right' or 'Did you say (repeat the statement the caller made)', etc.

  3. Don't worry about the call. Try to keep the caller talking, to find out as much information as possible. Take particular note of any unusual words or phrases used in case these contain a code word.

  4. Try to find out the answers to the following questions:

    1. Where is the bomb/device?

    2. What type is it - incendiary, explosive, gas, etc.?

    3. Who put it there, and when?

    4. Who is the caller, and who do they represent?

    5. Do they have any Police Identification code?

    6. When will bomb explode?

    7. Why is the person taking this action against Organisation?

    8. Do they have a grudge against this Organisation?

    9. Nature of complaint?

    10. Will bomb affect fire evacuation routes? (If so, do not activate fire alarm, as this could put employees at greater risk.)

  5. During, or immediately after, conversation make note of caller's characteristics:

    1. Young, old, male, female, English, foreign.

    2. Special accent or speech defect.

    3. Drunk or drugged, lucid, rambling or incoherent.

    4. Did it sound as if message was being read?

    5. Any background noises, or anything else of note?

  6. Organisations can suffer loss and their employees injury as a result of terrorist activity.

    Notify senior person present during the call, or immediately after. Senior person will need to make decision whether to evacuate or not, and will contact Police/Fire Brigade. Before arranging evacuation, fire evacuation routes should be checked for any suspicious packages. If suspicious packages are found, an alternative means of escape should be used, if not, use fire escape routes to evacuate. (The police may advise not to use the fire alarm as noise may set off some devices.)

Staff should be requested to take personal belongings with them, to remove as many 'suspect' packages as possible prior to the Police search.

  1. When the Police arrive, staff should act in accordance with their instructions. The Police will normally request that an employee accompany them during the search to identify, and thus eliminate from suspicion, harmless packages.

  2. organisations with a record of such alarms should arrange to link a tape recorder to the switchboard ready for immediate operation.

Suspect Packages

Receipt of a suspect package brings the potential danger into the premises without warning. Staff whose responsibility it is to handle post should be coached.

Checklist - Suspect Packages
  1. The Organisation will publish regularly, a list of countries from which suspect packages could arrive. Packages from these countries should be treated with caution.

  2. All packages which are oddly addressed or unusual, show signs of staining from a liquid, display metal protrusions, seem to contain machinery not likely to be of interest to the recipient, have broken coverings, have contents which are ticking (or making a similar noise), smell of almonds or marzipan, etc., (this list is not meant to be exhaustive) should be treated with considerable suspicion and placed within the secure section in the Post Room.

  3. The department, and surrounding departments, should be cleared, the matter should be reported to the senior manager present, and the police should be summoned.


An organisation liability insurers have an interest in the above and need to be kept informed particularly of certain aspects. Most leading insurers have in-house security experts who can advise on individual cases, and it is worth inviting them to survey the premises and make any suggestions for improvements. Because of their potential liability, they need to be informed:

  1. If employees regularly accompany police when checking for suspect packages.

  2. The Organisation has decided to ignore such calls (thus employees do not evacuate the building on receipt of a telephone threat).

  3. The Organisation leaves the decision of whether to evacuate or not to the individual employee.