Should You Revise Your Bomb Threat Emergency Instructions?

A little change can go a long way toward making your evacuations less troublesome.

A bomb threat targeting a university in the Midwest was E-mailed to the FBI in November 2010, prompting the school to evacuate four academic buildings including the main library. Although an initial search turned up nothing out of the ordinary, three streets were closed and all buildings named in the threat were evacuated and closed as investigators went through each of them with bomb-sniffing dogs. The community was notified of the evacuation via the activation of campus fire alarms.  

In hindsight, a valuable lesson was learned from this situation. Had the building occupants been evacuated using a pre-recorded voice message instructing them to take all of their personal belongings, an enormous amount of time and money could have been saved. This change of instructions would have eliminated the need to inspect the brief cases, backpacks, purses and other personal items left behind. It also would have eliminated the numerous requests of individuals who needed to return to their offices to retrieve cell phones, car keys and medications.

As many campuses transition to voice emergency notifications systems, one of the standard “canned” messages is something to this effect:

  • “May I have your attention please. May I have your attention please. There is an emergency situation in the building and public safety personnel are responding. Remain calm and immediately leave the building in an orderly manner by way of the nearest exit.”

With just a little tweaking (as illustrated below), this message could have a far more powerful effect, saving time and money for everyone involved:

  • “May I have your attention please. May I have your attention, please. An emergency situation has been reported in the building and public safety personnel are responding. Remain calm, collect all of your personal items that you brought with you today and immediately evacuate the building in an orderly manner by way of the nearest exit.”

It may be time to review you scripted messages. 

Bernard L. Buckner MPA, CPP, CHMM is executive director for campus safety at Cleveland State University.

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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 magazine.

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