Indicators of Terrorism to Watch For and How to Respond


The following is information a friend put together using materials from the Terrorism Awareness Module that is used in Cert (Civilian Emergency Response) Training.  These guidelines can help us spot possible terrorist attacks and keep our families and others safe.  I remember that when we did searches of building, the most helpful people were the janitors and maintenance people; they knew what belonged and what didn’t.  The same thing applies to areas you are familiar with; you know what is out of place or is doesn’t belong.  If you see something strange, don’t be afraid to report it.  You may prevent a terrorist attack.


Threat Awareness and Personal Protective Measures

For the Civilian Population In The Event of Terrorism



  • Purchase, or attempted illegal access to facility blue prints
  • Rental trucks with hazardous cargo placards parked in non-industrial settings or moving outside usual trucking routes.
  • Any truck left unattended and where the driver cannot be located.
  • Any unattended passenger vehicle or van with apparent heavy load
  • Theft of explosives, blasting caps or fuses, propane tanks, rental of self-storage space
  • Delivery of chemicals directly to a storage facility
  • Rental, theft or purchase of a truck or van having large carrying capacity
  • Modification of a truck or van for carrying heavier loads…
  • Unusual electrical components, wires or batteries which appear out of place
  • Unusual plastic tubing, bottles, aerosol containers, gas cylinders, particularly if near HVAC return air intake.
  • Any pipe with end caps in place. Any vehicles parked in unusual locations.
  • Walk-in patients with chemical burns, or anyone with untreated chemical burns
  • ER patients with recent traumatic amputation of fingers or hands

Suspicious Package PRIMARY INDICATORS:

  • Things that do not belong to anyone present: Packages, bags, briefcases, luggage
  • Delivered by unknown service / person
  • Unusual location, not normal, out of place
  • Just “appears”, item neither expected nor requested, listed sender did not mail or ship
  • Postmark doesn’t match return address, any parcel not delivered by a usual method
  • Hand-written labels, Poor penmanship, misspellings, Excessive tape, protrusions
  • Merely “looks odd,” trust your intuition! Too much postage, particularly stamps
  • Stiff or thick envelope over 1/4” or 2 ounces. Handle note or envelope as little as possible to preserve evidence.
  • “Bulging” or misshapen containers, capped containers with muddy liquid, or textile wick
  • Releasing vapors, odors, “hissing” ! If suspicious item leaks liquid / powder call 911!
  • Treat as chemical-biological-radiological threat, If package or box, isolate, evacuate the area.

WMDs are hazardous materials:

B-NICE = Biological, Nuclear, Incendiary, Chemical, Explosive 

Important indicators and clues:

  • Small explosions, Presence of spray devices,
  • Dead insects, birds, animals,
  • Similar symptoms appearing in many individuals.


Accompanied by fire, smoke or unusual odors, unusual colored smoke

  • Don’t touch anything, EVACUATE!
  • Warn others to get away and stay away
  • ASSIST others to EVACUATE the area, in an orderly manner.

IF you have an EXTINGUISHER and are TRAINED to use it,


  • The fire is SMALL and CONTAINED (NOT spreading)
  • EXIT IS CLEAR, and there is no imminent peril
  • You can you fight fire with your back to an exit!
  • You can stay low and avoid smoke
  • Use “Buddy System” – have someone back you up!
  • 911 has been called and building evacuation is underway



  • Minimize the TIME exposed to the threat
  • Put DISTANCE between you and the threat

Use terrain features or solid objects as shielding, below grade depressions in terrain, curb and gutter, drainage ditches.  If evacuating INSIDE a structure go to farthermost lateral point at least several floors below the device.

You want between you and the threat minimum of 8 inches of solid masonry, concrete, stone walls, structural steel pillars.  Face down behind cover, protect head with arms covering ears, mouth open.

Plaster walls, furniture or automobiles are concealment only and are not bullet proof /blast proof.

Avoid building evacuation assembly areas within 300 ft. of building near windows, or any overhead glass.

Get at least 300 ft. away or two vertical floors below from hand carried devices if you have shielding, 1000 ft. minimum for a backpack or suitcase sized device in the open.  If any vehicle bomb is suspected don’t stop at 1000 ft. get “as far away as possible.”  Avoid areas with flammable / hazardous materials storage. 

Only then perform SIZE UP and REPORT as you can from a safe distance. 

  • REPORT the incident to 911 by landline, if possible!
  • WRITE down location, time, license plate numbers, descriptions of any observations while your memory is fresh
  • DO NOT use cell phone or 2-way radio as may trigger secondary device, if present.

What to tell the 911 Operator?

  • LOCATION FIRST! Where are you now?
  • Where did it happen?
  • What happened (best as you can determine)
  • Number and types of known injuries
  • What is happening now?
  • Who you are, and how you can be reached to give your statement to investigators
  • INFORM call taker where you are, how to reach you. Follow all instructions of public safety personnel

What if you are contaminated?

Use basic decontamination procedures:

  • Remove everything, including jewelry
  • Cut off clothing normally removed over the head
  • Wash your hands before using them to shower
  • Flush entire body with cool water
  • Blot dry with absorbent cloth
  • Put on clean clothes
  • Report to responders for thorough decontamination, medical assessment and treatment.

1 thought on “Indicators of Terrorism to Watch For and How to Respond”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top