Bomb threat class preps local agents

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 30, 2001

Staff Writer

Decisions can mean the difference between life and death.

That was the lesson learned by emergency personnel during a class on bomb threat response to a terrorist incident taught Friday morning.

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Fred Patterson, an explosives consultant and former commander of the Department of Public Safety’s Hazardous Materials Unit, provided information on search techniques to local law enforcement, firefighters and other emergency personnel.

"The purpose of this course is to heighten awareness," Patterson said. "You’ll be a little bit further ahead of the game when we finish today."

Terrorism has become a commonplace word in recent history, especially with the advent of the Internet in many homes and the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.

"Terrorism is something that’s come to our country, recently," Patterson said, adding the incidents of Sept. 11 have "raised our guard" to issues expanding beyond the boundaries of race and labor tensions with which bombs were associated in the past.

"Terrorism is in our country. It’s in our country to stay."

One of the first lessons those in the class learned was building a bomb takes "a lot of determination," but can be easily accomplished with readily available materials.

Most bomb threats are done as a method of revenge or extortion and many occur long after an individual has let down his or her guard.

"Bombs can be made to go off 10 years later," Patterson said.

"Ninety-eight of bomb threats are a hoax," he said. "Every year, we have several hundred live incidents."

Although Patterson said a bomb threat should not be ignored, he also pointed out such threats do not have to bring everything to a standstill, which is the intent of a terrorist.

"It will never be safe again," although everyone may be allowed to return to work, Patterson said of a facility which receives a threat.

Those in the day-long class learned how explosive devices can be hidden in just about anything without notice.

Before sending the class participants on the search, Patterson said, "I’ll kill each of you today."

When first spoken, that comment raised some eyebrows, but after the searches, the first responders realized the how easily their eyes could be deceived.

"Some things look like they belong where they are and some things look out of place," Patterson said.

"The best person to search (a building) is one who works there. They’ll notice before I will."