I am using an IBM R52 laptop. yesterday night I faced the same problem. while I was surfing, suddenly I got a blue screen for a few seconds saying system dump memory something like that and said if you are facing this problem for the first time...I could read only this much.
Next thing I know, the computer restarts and says Operating system not found. I am not sure how to get into BIOS as you mentioned, will search for that. but any other help would be useful. also when I restart, there is some clicking noise that happens twice or thrice and then after 2-3 seconds the IBM logo comes up, dont know if that tells you anything about Hard disk failure.
PS: R52 has some sort of hard disk recovery mechanism that can be used in case of hard disk failure, I have not seen any helpful screen coming up saying how to do this.