Friday, July 19, 2024

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Dedicated Bomb First Responder Service could Revolutionise Threat Management and benefit the security sector

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A dedicated bomb first responder service is part of the solution to resolve poor bomb threat management protocols in South Africa.

Speaking at Securex, Jimmy Roodt, operations and explosives director at Gauntlet Security Solutions said the prevailing approach to bomb threat management in South Africa, as observed across sectors including facilities management, occupational health and safety, and private security, is fundamentally flawed.

“The widespread practice of integrating bomb threat protocols into existing fire threat management procedures is ineffective and dangerously counterproductive,” he said.

Therefore, the bomb first responder service would enhance workplace and public safety through employer-private partnerships, leveraging sector strengths for a swift, effective, and coordinated response to bomb threats.

“The first responder service acts as the initial contact and assessment entity for bomb threats. It does not replace government roles, like the South African Police Service (SAPS), but bridges the gap until their involvement. If the threat exceeds initial assessment, the service transitions responsibility to SAPS, ensuring optimal deployment of resources,” explained Roodt.

The bomb first responder service could deal with the receipt of bomb threats, the assessment and evaluation of the explosives, the bomb threat incident decision outcome, search and survey, evaluation and control, rendering safe procedures, handover of the site and return work order.

“The private bomb first responder services will also provide monitoring, evaluation, and advisory services of the bomb protocols of the employer or client facilities and locations,” said Roodt.

Roodt added that one of the benefits of a correct bomb threat management protocol would be the creation of new security sectorial expansion.

“The proposed expansion includes frontline bomb first responder services, bomb threat consultancy, awareness training, post-explosion forensic analysis, explosives disposal, and the buying or selling of mitigation equipment and resources.”

“The new service sector will bolster the South African economy by developing new businesses and creating both specialised jobs and required support jobs, addressing employment needs and strengthening national security infrastructure.”

Currently, inadequate bomb threat protocols are due to conflation with fire safety protocols.

Roodt said that total inefficiency exacerbates the risk to individuals’ safety and life.

“It places the employer as noncompliant with national and international standards for explosives or bomb threat management. This nonconformity poses serious legal risks for employers, facility managers, health and safety practitioners, and security companies in the event of death, injury, or property damage.”

“As a direct consequence, employers, business owners, property managers, and occupational health and safety professionals are not adhering to their legal obligation of Duty of Care in the workplace,” Roodt explained.

He compared bomb threat protocols with fire safety protocols and demonstrated the vast differences between the two.

A fire threat policy emphasises speed in evacuation, advocating for rapid movement to escape the danger. The correct bomb threat protocol necessitates a calm, measured response, as hurried movements could inadvertently trigger an explosive device.

“The directive for evacuation must prioritise safety, caution, and deliberateness. The terminologies such as “speed, quick, fast” must never be used,” said Roodt.

Under a fire safety policy the building or an area on fire is immediately identified as the threat source, prompting an urgent evacuation.  The general principle is that you evacuate a burning building or area immediately.

The general principle for bomb threats is to not evacuate the building.

“The structure of the building itself serves as the safest refuge and protection against a bomb detonation,” said Roodt.

Fire evacuations prioritise the shortest, quickest routes to safety while bomb threat evacuations consider the safest route which may not be the shortest.

Commonly the assembly point for fires are car parks which is forbidden under bomb threat management protocols.

“The assembly point purpose is to safeguard against the bomb blast radius, shrapnel fragmentation, secondary explosions and secondary shrapnel fragmentation. It is forbidden to have an assembly point in a car park,” said Roodt.

He said implementing proper bomb threat management protocols could save South Africa billions of Rands by reducing business disruption from evacuations.

“Over the past three decades, there have been more than 12000 bomb threat incidents annually. The disruptive nature of unfounded bomb threats affects business, educational, and social environments. Regulatory, legislative, and directive guidelines from key stakeholders, such as the Consumer Goods Council and SA Labour Guide, emphasise the necessity for employers and other organisations to establish bomb threat mitigation plans. The economic impact is tens of billions of Rands lost annually due to explosives crimes.”

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