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Partnering with Law Enforcement to Improve Bomb Threat Prevention and Response: A Conversation with the Office for Bomb Prevention’s Charles Leas


With attacks on utilities growing every year, it is more important that ever to have a sound bomb threat response program in place. A key element to that program is to work together with state and local law enforcement to establish lines of communication about potential threats as well as establishing an effective response plan. Utility Security magazine’s Editor-in-Chief, Curtis Marquardt Jr., had a chance to sit down with the Office of Bomb Prevention’s Operation’s Chief, Charles Leas, to talk about how utilities can create or improve their bomb threat program. 

Curtis Marquardt Jr.:
At the time of this interview, it’s National Police Week. So, it’s great that Utility Security magazine gets to talk about the value of utilities partnering with law enforcement with Charles Lee, the operations chief for the Office of Bombing Prevention (OBP). I want to start off,  with a reference to our March 2024 issue of Utility Security magazine. We talked with AvanGrid’s CSO and VP Brian Harrell. He talked pretty extensively about the importance of building relationships, connections and communications with local law enforcement and why that’s so fundamental to building a strong security posture. Can you talk about how it has been important for CISA and OBP to partner with law enforcement?

Charles Leas:
Thank you for this opportunity to talk to you and your listeners about the mission of the Cybersecurity Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), and the Office for Bomb Prevention. 

This is a very special week for law enforcement. And, so, I’m really happy to be able to spread the message about how important partnerships are with law enforcement. You know, when we work with companies and federal agencies and state and local, tribal, territorial, we’re trying to always work towards improving the resilience of critical infrastructure. 

As you know, most of the critical infrastructure in the United States is owned and operated by private companies. So it’s really important to have that public-private partnership—especially when improvised explosive devices or bombs remain a persistent threat globally. Although there are more bomb and bomb threat incidents overseas, they are happening in the US every day. Even if it is a bomb threat that doesn’t involve any explosive device, there is a lot of psychological damage that happens to people when they are exposed to a bomb threat. 

Of course, there are real bomb incidents that do occur, such as the Christmas Day bombing in Nashville in 2020. So, these tactics are still used everywhere. The materials used to make bombs can be easily accessible. And sadly, the effects of a bombing on critical infrastructure could have catastrophic effects.

That is why we at OBP work hard to help empower communication and partnerships with our stakeholders and the private sector government so that law enforcement is alerted when these incidents could happen, because we want to stop them before they happen.

Curtis Marquardt Jr.:
So you’re referencing in part the bomb making materials awareness program that OBP has. Can you tell our readers more about this program?

Charles Leas:
Well, this is definitely a program right after my heart that I led for a couple of years. So, let me define the problem. Right now, there’s a lot of products that are available for good law-abiding citizens to use that make our lives better. But, unfortunately, most of us have some of those materials in the cabinet underneath our respective kitchen sinks that could be used to do very bad things. 

So we work with our federal partners such as the FBI, the ATF and state and local law enforcement—along with the companies that manufacture and sell the products to inform them about the dangers of certain explosive precursor chemicals, explosive target material and associated components that could be used by criminals or terrorists.  

We also make sure the public is informed as well because often they can be the eyes and ears that are the first to spot suspicious behavior. We want them to feel empowered to report even when they’re not sure about the behavior because that report might just save their community from a bomb incident. 

Curtis Marquardt Jr.:
Our readers work for the nation’s most critical infrastructure component—in my opinion—which are utilities that provide electricity, water, gas and communications. Can you discuss the importance of a utility having their own bomb threat program in place.

Charles Leas:
Well, first, having a great internal security program with your workforce is very important. And you want to have a program that focuses on internal and external threats because you never really know where the next attack’s going to happen. Make sure you have the protocols in place.

One of the worst things about a bomb threat, as we all know, is that it’s done to disrupt, distract and harass a location or organization. So this can have an impact financially or psychologically to an organization or a community. Even if the threat is not credible, you have to have the training and experience to decide whether it is or not. So working with law enforcers is important, but actually handling the initial bomb threat is the site decision maker of that private company. You need to have that in place. 

OBP actually provides a lot of training in that area on the website. [Links provided below]. We provide a myriad of different resources, from online courses and videos to in-person courses and instructor-led training that is either virtual or in person. We also go on site and do counter improvised explosive assessments as well. We also do explosive blast modeling that helps utilities locate where they may be most vulnerable. And, finally, we have our security resilience guide that really helps stakeholders and emergency management planners on how to deal with counter IED activities. So take advantage of those resources! And, again, it’s very important to work with your state and local law enforcement to develop a plan on how to deal with bomb threat incidents. 

Curtis Marquardt Jr.:
That is an abundant and impressive list of resources. I highly encourage our readers to go out and connect with CISA if they haven’t already because it has so many tools and resources for utilities to use. 

I’m going to wrap up this interview with the same last question I ask everyone: the crystal ball question. Using your magic future-seeing crystal ball, where do you see the future of bomb threats, bomb prevention going in five years? In ten years? Beyond? 

Charles Leas:
Well, without getting too detailed on some of these things, all you have to do is look around the world, tune in to the news, and you can see the types of threats certain countries are facing from unmanned things. This could be an issue. Bomb threats have been a persistent thing since the beginning of the United States. And it’s going to continue to be persistent moving into the future. We can get ahead of it if we keep the community involved and communicate with law enforcement. The more we all work together, the greater our success at a more secure tomorrow.

Curtis Marquardt Jr.:
Well, thank you so much for your time today. As the saying goes, “it takes a village to raise a child.” I think the same logic applies to bomb prevention. It takes a village to keep communities and critical infrastructure safe. And I’m glad that CISA and OBP is helping bring our villages together.


CISA Resources:
Below are links to several helpful resources to help your utility organization create or enhance its bomb and bomb threat response program: 

Bombing Prevention | Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency CIS

Bomb Threats | CISA

Office for Bombing Prevention (OBP) Training Program | CISA

Home | TRIPwire (

Bomb-Making Materials Awareness Program (BMAP) | CISA

Suspicious Activity and Items | CISA

IED Awareness | CISA

Protective Measures | CISA

Planning and Preparedness | CISA 

Operation Flashpoint | CISA

EBM Fact Sheet | CISA

Security and Resiliency Guide: Counter-Improvised Explosive Device Concepts, Common Goals, and Available Assistance | CISA

Resiliency Guide – Counter IED