What's in the Box?

Early reports from Sunday, January 21, 2018, indicated two pipe bombs exploded at a mall in Lake Ridge, Florida. Fortunately, no one was injured, and authorities later identified the 'pipe bombs' as marine flares, but the mall was evacuated.

Although relatively rare, bomb threats are frightening and can cause disruption and uncertainty. Incidents such as the Boston Marathon Bombing and the explosion outside the Ariana Grande concert in the UK caused multiple casualties and were made with common household items and left in public places. In the case of the Florida bomber, a threat was not called in before the explosion, which is consistent with most successful bombings. [1] It is important to know how to identify a suspicious package or object that could explode, and what to do if you receive a threat.

What makes it a suspicious package?  Does it have signs of:

  • Damaged or tattered box
  • Oddly shaped or wrapped package
  • Wires, batteries or other objects sticking out of the packaging
  • Unusual or oily stains on any part of the packaging
  • Too much postage
  • Package covered with large amounts of packing tape or stickers
  • Misspellings in the address or incomplete address
  • No return address label
  • Backpack or duffel bag left behind near pedestrian/high traffic area
  • Sealed section of pipe
  • Object making hissing or ticking sound
  • Package or object giving off a burnt or chemical odor
  • Object covered in nails, screws, or other small, sharp projectiles

What to do:

  • If you receive a bomb threat via phone, stay calm. Try to keep the caller on the line as long as possible while directing someone to call 911. Write as many details down about the caller as you can identify, such as the sound of their voice, their gender, or where they say they're calling from. Give those details to the police when they arrive.
  • Threats made via email, social media, or any other electronic platform should be sent to the police for further investigation.
  • Report any objects or packages left unattended and seemingly out of place, especially in high traffic areas where people are likely to pass through or congregate.
  • Many experts advise staying in place if a threat is received, rather than to evacuate. Threats made by phone, message, or other media rarely result in an explosive being found, and many are false alarms. If you receive a threat, report it to the police and wait for further instruction.

Our bomb threat Marco program challenges teams to work through these best practices and more. At the end of one hour, you will be able to develop ways your organization can be more prepared to recognizing, reacting and handling a bomb threat.  


  1. Albrecht, Steve. (2013). Bombers or bomb threat makers? Looking for hunters, dealing with howlers. Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-act-violence/201304/bombers-or-bomb-threat-makers

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