Security Guidelines

Identification And Handling Of Suspected Bombs

Part I: Identification of letter or parcel bombs

The following are some physical characteristics of a letter / parcel bomb:

  • Excessive use of postage given the weight of the letter or parcel. This is because the sender of the letter bomb will not want it to be weighed and inspected at a post office so he will usually affix more stamps than necessary.
  • Excessive use of securing material such as string and adhesive tape.
  • Use of rigid, or oddly-shaped or sized parcel / letter.
  • Uneven or lopsided weight distribution within the parcel / letter which is usually due to the weight of batteries or explosives.
  • Oily stains or discoloration on wrapping material. This is because most explosives are oil-based and tend to leave oily, translucent stains on ordinary paper.
  • Trace of unusual odour like that of almond or marzipan on the letter or parcel.
  • Detection of clock-ticking sound (avoid even gently shaking the parcel) coming from the parcel / letter.
  • Presence of an inner sealed enclosure or container.
  • Wires or aluminum foil protruding from the parcel / letter which become visible upon close inspection.
  • Evidence of pinholes in the envelope containing the letter or wrapping material of parcel. 

Part II: Other peculiarities to note:

  • The letter or parcel is addressed to the recipient by name only, or by title only. There are also instances in which the name of the addressee and his postal address are not directly typed or written on the envelope containing the letter or the parcel, but on a piece of paper, which is then pasted onto the envelope or the wrapping material of parcel.
  • The letter or parcel is addressed to a specific person by name with markings (e.g. "Personal", "Private and Confidential" or "To be Opened by Addressee only") to indicate that the addressee should be the only one to open it.
  • There is no return address or name of the sender.
  • There may be spelling errors in the addressee's postal address, name or his designation. These may be written in strange or foreign-looking handwriting.

If an unexpected or unrequested delivery is received, check with the sender and addressee of the letter or parcel what contents are expected in the letter or parcel.

Part III: Dealing with situations where letter / parcel bombs are received:

  • Most letter / parcel bombs delivered through the mail or regular courier will tolerate a fair amount of handling. If you receive a letter / parcel suspected of containing explosives, do not attempt to open it. Most bombs are designed to detonate when the outer wrapping is cut open or torn.
  • Place the suspected letter / parcel bomb in a corner of the room away from windows.
  • Call the Police immediately.
  • Evacuate the room and surrounding areas, if necessary, leaving all the doors and windows open. This is to allow the blast if any, to vent and mitigate the harmful effects of the shattering glass.

Part IV: Identification of a suspicious vehicle, which may be laden with explosives:

The following are some characteristics of a suspicious vehicle, which may be laden with explosives:

  • Unmanned.
  • Haphazardly parked.
  • Overly weighted especially where no indication of bulk is visible.
  • Presence of suspicious items inside (e.g. boxes / parcels sticking out with wires).
  • Presence of foreign objects attached under the vehicle or beside the wheels.
  • Signs of being tampered with (e.g. keyhole damaged, windows/doors ajar, drilled holes in car body).
  • It has a new vehicle license plate mounted on an old & dirty vehicle.

Frequently Asked Questions

If a letter / parcel I receive only partially fits the above description of the physical characteristics of a bomb, do I treat it as a bomb?

You will be alerted by the authorities (Police or SCDF) through any of the following channels:
If you are not sure and there are reasons to suspect that it is a bomb, treat it as a bomb and alert the Police.

Do I need to evacuate the staff while waiting for police to arrive?

You are advised to place the letter / parcel at a corner of the room and evacuate the room, leaving the windows opened.

What should I do if parcels received are not requested or ordered?

If an unexpected or unrequested parcel is received, check with the senders and addressee on what contents are expected in the letter or parcel.

Where should I place the parcel if I suspect it is a bomb?

You should place the suspect device in a corner of the room away from windows.

What sounds would give away a parcel as a possible bomb?

You should try to listen for clock ticking sounds coming from the letter / parcel.

What smells would indicate that a letter / parcel is a possible bomb?

The letter / parcel would give off an unusual odour like that of almond or marzipan.

What do I do when I have received information of a bomb threat?

Stay calm and confirm with the source of the information. If you encounter difficulty in checking with the source, call the police hotline at 1800-2550000. Do not spread rumours.

What do I do when I discover a vehicle that may be laden with explosives?

Call the Police. Meanwhile, keep other people away from the vehicle.

Do I conduct a check on a vehicle that may be laden with explosives myself?

You are advised not to do so. If you suspect a vehicle to be laden with a bomb from your initial observation of the vehicle's external features, do not conduct any further inspection that will cause you to make physical contact with the car. You should keep people away from it and call the Police immediately.

What do I do when I notice a suspicious vehicle being driven away?

Take down the vehicle number, vehicle model, description of the driver, and the direction in which it is heading and call the Police. Do not attempt to follow the car.

What do I look out for inside a suspicious vehicle?

Without coming into contact with or entering the vehicle, you should try to look out for foreign objects under the dashboard, on the floor, under the seats for partially hidden parcels.


Last Updated on 14 September 2017