Suspicious Packages and Bomb Threats

The Current Threat Environment

  • Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) are homemade bombs and explosive devices often made from common, readily available materials.
  • Explosive devices remain the weapon of choice for terrorists, and IEDs, such as pipe bombs,
    pressure cookers, and backpacks or bottles filled with volatile materials, are most commonly encountered.
  • In recent years, there has been a shift towards “lone wolf ” attacks based on guidance from extremist group propaganda.
  • Facilities such as hotels, entertainment and sporting venues, retailers, community centers and houses of worship and hospitals are seen as attractive or “soft” targets for attacks since they are easily accessible and have high concentrations of people.
  • The ability to recognize the items and behaviors associated with IED threats and take appropriate action in the face of a threat can prevent incidents, minimize chaos, and lessen loss of life.

How to React Quickly and Safely to Suspicious Packages and Bomb Threats

Example of how to search a room for explosive devices. Start with the outside and work in.

Bomb threats are a rare but serious event. How quickly and safely you react can save lives, including your own:

  • DO report suspicious activity, unattended packages, or a potential bomb threat to authorities immediately, follow instructions, and evacuate the area
  • DO provide as much detail as possible to authorities
  • DO seek distance and cover – they are the best means to reduce the risk of injury
  • DO NOT approach or inspect suspicious items or unattended packages
  • DO NOT congregate near the incident scene – it may impede first responders and there could be a risk of secondary attacks

Be Prepared for IEDs and Play a Role in Prevention!

Below are counter-IED resources appropriate for individuals, families, travelers, educational and religious institutions, and businesses, as well as law enforcement, emergency services, or security professionals, which provide insight to help increase preparedness and reduce risks associated with potential bombings.

Bomb Threat Guidance:

Awareness Materials:

Virtual Training:

These web-based courses provide general awareness-level, counter-IED information to a broad audience via an online virtual training experience with a live instructor, using Adobe Connect through the Homeland Security Information Network (HSIN). These courses are designed for small group instruction of 15 to 25 participants.

A FEMA Student ID (FEMA SID) is required to participate in all VILT OBP course offerings. To obtain a FEMA SID, visit FEMA’s website to apply.

To view the VILT training schedule and register for a course, please visit the VILT website.

Computer-Based Training:

Homemade Explosives and Precursor Chemicals Awareness for Public Safety Computer Based Training  (AWR-349)

This one-hour, awareness-level, computer-based course, available through TRIPwire, educates law enforcement, firefighters, emergency medical technicians, and other public safety personnel about homemade explosives—commonly referred to as HME—the precursor chemicals that are used to manufacture HME, and actions to take if HME precursor chemicals or equipment are thought to be present during a routine service call.

Find more information on the DHS Office for Bombing Prevention at https://www.dhs.gov/obp