9 Bomb Threat Preparedness and Response Considerations

A bomb threat checklist, detailed search guidelines, and regular training on recognizing suspicious items are among good practices.

9 Bomb Threat Preparedness and Response Considerations

Photo: Marzky Ragsac Jr. - stock.adobe.com

Bomb threats have become increasingly prevalent nationwide, affecting various sectors such as government facilities, schools, and universities. High-profile establishments are often the primary targets.

Data spanning several decades indicates that the majority of threats –approximately 95% — are hoaxes aimed at disrupting normal operations, instilling public fear, and causing concern. Despite this, businesses must treat every threat seriously due to potential risks, including the possibility of threats being used to exploit vulnerabilities during evacuations.

Here are nine bomb threat preparedness and response considerations for your campus.

1. Training

All businesses should establish comprehensive plans and provide clear guidelines to employees for responding to bomb threats. Particularly vulnerable sectors, such as schools, government agencies, and hospitals, should prioritize enhancing employee knowledge of appropriate responses. Given the tendency to forget procedures under stress, regular training significantly reduces the likelihood of improper responses during critical situations.

2. Written Plans and Policy

Businesses must maintain written protocols for both man-made and natural disasters. Regular training sessions should ensure that employees are familiar with these protocols, whether through reviewing written plans, watching instructional videos, or periodic testing every one to three years.

3. Response

Both business leaders and employees should be well-versed in bomb threat response protocols. Threats can manifest through various channels such as phone calls, written messages, emails, texts, or in-person communication. Providing a bomb threat checklist, easily accessible near phones, can offer crucial guidance to recipients of threats.

Below is a bomb threat call card sample from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

4. Suspicious Items

As part of disaster preparedness, employees should be trained to recognize and report suspicious items. Businesses should establish procedures for routine checks and advise customers and vendors against leaving belongings unattended. Vigilance in spotting anomalies is key to preemptive threat mitigation.

For example, if someone who works at the business notices a box in a room that is not normally there, consider that a suspicious item.

5. Search Strategies

Search teams responding to bomb threats must exercise caution and follow established protocols. Detailed search guidelines, including methods and precautions, should be adhered to meticulously. Involvement of an appointed employee and local authorities and, if available, explosive detection K-9 units, can enhance search effectiveness and safety.

When searching for an IED during a credible bomb threat incident, the search teams should not turn lights off or on but leave them as they find them. Exercise caution not to open doors or cabinet drawers. The people searching should leave everything the way they find it.

When searching a room, a recommended method would be to search from the floor up. See graphic below for room search guidelines.

6. Evacuation

While most bomb threats are hoaxes, certain details provided during threats can indicate credibility. Specific information regarding the threat increases its seriousness and may warrant evacuation. Businesses should designate rally points for evacuations and ensure safety through prior coordination with law enforcement.

Additionally, preparations should consider the potential exploitation of evacuation procedures for malicious intents.

7. Public Information Officer (PIO)

Designated personnel from the marketing or public relations department should be prepared to address media inquiries in the event of a bomb threat. Incorporating communication protocols into existing policies and procedures facilitates efficient management of public relations during such incidents.

8. Debriefings

Conducting employee debriefings post-incident helps illuminate actions taken and reasons behind them, and serves to identify areas for improvement in future responses.

9. Service Recovery

In certain cases, involving government agencies or educational institutions and issuing press releases can help clarify the situation to the public, instilling confidence in the organization’s preparedness measures for handling similar incidents in the future.

Jay Dotson is the owner and primary instructor at Fortress Preparedness Services. He has 35 years of law enforcement experience, and 30 years of experience as a hospital security officer/director of security. Dotson is also an Indiana Law Enforcement Academy training provider and former Center for Domestic Preparedness training consultant. 

Note: The views expressed by guest bloggers and contributors are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, Campus Safety.

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