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Regulatory Revision| Development Issues

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Terrorism and acts of violence

Safety advice

Public places are sometimes the scene of violent acts that can involve the use of firearms, explosives or chemical agents. It is difficult to prevent such acts from occurring. On the other hand, simple steps can prevent a number of threats or reduce the impact of some of these acts.

There are steps you can take to reduce hazards:

Stay alert

The following actions may prevent or reduce the seriousness of a violent act.

  • Respect the safety instructions in effect.
  • Be aware of the emergency exits.
  • Pay attention to your intuition and inform the security services of the place where you are of any unusual occurrences or actions that make you think that a hostile act is being planned. It’s better to be wrong than to regret not having taken action.
  • Never agree to take charge of a stranger’s package or suitcase.
  • Follow the instructions of the authorities when there is a threat, for example, if they request evacuation of the area where you are.
  • Learn how to provide first aid to an injured person.

Exercise good judgement

If you have been a witness to violence, do the following.

  • Don’t try to do anything that puts your life or the lives of others in danger.
  • Call 9-1-1 to advise emergency services of the situation. Describe the situation precisely.
  • Assist injured victims and comfort witnesses in shock when all danger is over.
  • Avoid using your cell phone so as not to tie up the network.
  • Reassure your family and friends. It is preferable to use a land-line telephone to do so.
  • Remove children from the scene of the violence as soon as possible, and comfort them.
  • Make way for the emergency services as soon as they arrive and remain available to them to tell them what you have seen.

Know how to react when there is an active shooter

Your own good sense and the following advice should govern your behaviour if there is a shooter where you are.

  • Evacuate the location and leave your things behind, if you know the exit route and you are certain that it’s free.
  • As you flee, tell those you meet to leave.
  • Avoid elevators and escalators.
  • Get far enough away from the place you have left.
  • Call 9-1-1 to inform emergency services as soon as you are out of danger.

If you are unable to evacuate the area safely, do the following….

  • Take refuge in a safe place close to where you are.
  • Close the doors, lock them or block them with heavy objects.
  • Close the curtains or blinds to avoid being seen.
  • Turn off the lights.
  • Turn off any devices that could make a noise and call attention to your presence (e.g., a cell phone).
  • Lie on the ground or crouch behind a piece of furniture.
  • Remain silent.
  • Wait for instructions from the police before you leave your refuge.

Follow the instructions given by the emergency services. To avoid being taken for the assailant, follow this advice:

  • Remain calm
  • Keep your hands open and visible
  • Avoid any movement that would be confusing.

Know what to do if you see a suspicious package

Suspicious packages often have certain characteristics which help to identify them, particularly the following.

  • They are abandoned or not claimed.
  • They are irregular in shape or unusually heavy.
  • They show an unusual number of staples, tape, string.
  • They give off an unusual odour.
  • They show grease marks or their wrapping is discoloured.
  • There is something unusual about them, such as powder escaping from them, small holes in the wrapping, wires coming through the wrapping, etc.)

Suspicious packages arriving by mail or by express parcel service often have the following characteristics.

  • They are not expected by the addressee.
  • They have an unusual number of stamps.
  • They have a restrictive notice regarding delivery, e.g. “Urgent delivery”, or “Do not delay delivery of this package”.
  • They do not show the address of the sender.
  • The destination address is illegible, unusual, or incorrect.
  • The name or title on the parcel is not that of the addressee or is simply Addressee, or Homeowner, etc.
  • There are clues that the package comes from another country.

If you receive or are in the presence of a suspicious package, here’s what to do

  • Leave the package where it is and avoid touching it, shaking it, or smelling it.
  • Evacuate the premises and close the doors behind you.
  • Immediately advise security services or the Sûreté du Québec (provincial police).
  • Wait in a safe place until the police arrive.

If you have opened the package (for example, to look for a reference address) and the contents appear suspicious, apply the same instructions. In addition:

  • Remove all clothing bearing traces of powder or liquid, place the clothing in a bag and seal the bag;
  • Wash your hands with soap and water.

Asking for psychological help

Appropriate psychological support can help victims or witnesses of violent acts. To obtain psychological help, contact your regional CSSS (health and social services centre -- centre de santé et de services sociaux).

Bomb threat

If you receive a telephoned bomb threat, remain calm and try to obtain as much information as possible. While it may not be easy, pay particular attention to the voice characteristics and to any other sounds you hear. Make the person calling keep talking as long as possible and note everything that has been said.

Force yourself to note the following details:

  • Is it a man or a woman?
  • Does the caller speak with an accent?
  • Does the voice seem disguised, muffled or strange?
  • Is the tone of voice high or low?
  • What background sounds do you hear (traffic noise, a bus passing, bells or a doorbell, a fax machine, printer, etc.)?
  • Do the sounds seem to come from indoors or outdoors?

Call the police and the building administration immediately after hanging up.

If you have received a bomb threat, do not touch any suspicious package. If a suspicious package has been found, leave the premises and alert the police immediately.

If you have been evacuated from the building, avoid placing yourself in front of the windows or in front of any other potentially dangerous place. Do not block the sidewalk or the street; everything must be cleared for the arrival of emergency personnel.

If an explosion occurs, leave the building as quickly and calmly as possible. If objects are falling from shelves or ceilings, take shelter under a table or solid desk until the situation allows you to come out. Remember that you must ensure your own safety before trying to assist others.

Making a bomb threat is a criminal act. Do not try to determine if the threat is real or if this is a hoax. Call the police.


Ministère de la Sécurité publique du Québec

Urgence Québec

Government of Canada