Report Gives Bomb Threat Response Procedures
Some procedures are technical while others simply require common sense.
A recent report gave tips for campuses looking to improve their bomb threat procedures.
HTM Business Endurance Solutions’ report (included below) is an overview of the steps officials can take to prepare for and respond to a bomb threat.
The report found that many common bomb threat response practices are outdated. Specifically, the report found:
- Immediate evacuation is “often wrong and can actually be dangerous” because it can create a panic situation even though the vast majority of bomb threats are hoaxes
- Procedures for emergency responders vary from state to state
- Mandatory evacuation is an inadequate policy for properly responding to bomb threats, which should involve additional steps and variations for a truly effective response
Preparing for a Bomb Threat
Meeting with local police, fire and emergency agencies should be done at least once a year. Because the capabilities of local agencies and procedures at campuses change, update should be given at the meeting on things like:
- Any new equipment or response capabilities of local agencies
- Any updated campus floor plans or locking mechanisms in buildings
- Changes to campus evacuation points or search procedures
Determining how credible a bomb threat is will dictate your response. The report lists seven sets of questions officials should ask themselves after receiving a bomb threat.
1. Is there a legitimate reason for this bomb threat?
2. Is this threat part of a series of similar threats occurring in the region/district/target institution?
3. Is this bomb threat nearly identical to previous threats?
4. Is the threat direct or vague?
5. Was the threat called in? Was the threat found on social media or email? Was the threat reported by someone finding a note or graffiti? This can establish the appropriate sense of urgency.
6. Does the threat indicate that the caller has actually been on the premises?
7. Does the bomb threat contain enough detail to be credible?
Bomb Threat Response
The report also laid out some response guidelines for campus officials. Some of the steps are more technical while others are common sense.
If the threat is received over the phone, do not hang up and try to mark down the caller ID. Officials should call 911 rather than pulling the fire alarm.
Evacuations when the threat is not imminent don’t need to be conducted with the same urgency as fire drills and many personal items should be taken out of the building with their owners so police don’t have to search through unthreatening belongings.
Evacuating officials should also be keeping an eye out for unfamiliar packages or any unusual items on campus, passing any potentially relevant information to first responders. Evacuees should remain calm and shut their cell phones off.
A mass notification system should be used to inform parents of the threat and to urge them not to come to campus, although officials should still plan for many parents’ arrival.
If the threat is determined to be a hoax, campus officials should gather students for an unemotional discussion of what happened so as not to encourage the perpetrator or potential copycats. There are likely students who know something about the threat or perpetrator.
Read the full report here: A_Special_Discussion_on_Bomb_Threats.pdf