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Safety & emergency preparedness


Currently, the most frequent acts of terrorism involve explosives and bombs. The City of Philadelphia uses highly trained explosives specialists to respond to any and all explosive threats found within the city. Still, it is important to be aware of suspicious activity.

See something, say something

Terrorists come from many ethnic groups. You can’t detect terrorist activity by the way someone looks but you should be aware of suspicious activity. Also remember that targeted buildings and areas are often examined before an actual attack.

By being alert, you can stop an attack at the most important time: before it starts. If you see a terrorist threat or criminal activity, call 911. If you think something is strange, treat it that way until experts have figured out if it is harmless.

Pay attention to the following suspicious activities and behaviors:

  • Someone wearing clothing that’s strange for the season or place, such as a heavy coat in summer.
  • Someone holding tightly onto a bag, suitcase, or backpack.
  • Someone looking very anxious or very calm.
  • People who seem very interested in the outside of a building, delivery gates, doors, or entrances.
  • People who seem very interested in security cameras and controlled areas.
  • People taking photos and notes of building security measures.

Suspicious objects

  • Large container-type items such as suitcases, backpacks, or bags left near a crowded area or building. (A backpack left on a busy train is more serious than one left in an empty park.)
  • Packages with strange mistakes such as misspellings, incorrect titles, no return address, or instructions for a specific person to open.
  • Vehicles parked outside a building for long periods of time.
  • Wires or switches sticking out from bags or items.
  • Unusual activity by contractor vehicles.
  • Cars or trucks parked in a busy location with smoke coming from inside the vehicle, a heavy load on the suspension, wires in uncommon areas, or odd electronic equipment such as cell phones wired to other items.
  • The same vehicle with different drivers coming back to a building several times.

Take note: Storage and other private spaces

  • Cash paid for short-term rental of housing or storage facilities.
  • Computers, fans, and large amounts of pots, containers, and cookware moved into housing, but few personal belongings.

Be responsible

  • Be aware of what is around you. Find emergency exits, fire alarms, and fire extinguishers.
  • Report suspicious objects, vehicles, or people to public safety authorities.
  • Don’t leave luggage by itself. You should also promptly report unusual behavior, suspicious or unattended packages, and strange devices to the police or security personnel.

What to do during a terrorist attack or threat

  • Stay calm.
  • Be alert. Look out for other hazards such as falling debris, or suspicious packages or persons. Report any of these to public safety authorities.
  • Follow the instructions of emergency service personnel.
  • Do not spread rumors. Only report what you know is true.