Bomb threats are something that everyone should take seriously. Sometimes, an angry customer or a thoughtless teenager will make a bomb threat as a joke, but the possibility - however slim - that a bomb threat is real should not be ignored. You should always treat bomb threats as genuine and act accordingly. Proper precautions and a swift response could save lives.
Bomb threats may come in via the telephone, email, or a written note. In rare cases, the person making the threat may do so in person. If you are sent a bomb threat, then you should try to remain calm and respond accordingly. The Department of homeland security recommends that you follow a simple procedure.
If the threat was made via the telephone:
- Try to keep the caller on the line for as long as you can. Be polite, show that you are interested, so that you can keep them talking.
- Do not hang up on the call. If the caller hangs up, keep your part of the line open.
- If you can do so, use a note or hand signals to attract the attention of other staff so that they can listen in and notify the authorities.
- Write down as much as you can about the call, including the caller ID, the wording of the threat (be as precise as you can), what the caller sounded like and if there was anything notable about their behavior or if there were sounds in the background.
- If you are able to record the call, do so.
If the threat was made in person or via a written note, then the first priority should be to call the police. Do not contact the person who made the threat or follows any of the instructions in the threat without first speaking to the authorities. Do so discretely and calmly.
It helps to have a plan in place that everyone who works in the building should know about. Having a plan makes it easier to respond to suspicious items and bomb threats in a calm and prompt manner, and will reduce the impact that false alarms might have on your day to day activities.
There are checklists on the DHS website that will help you to plan for bomb threats and printable lists of information that you should collect from the person making the threat if you are able to speak to them over the phone.
It is important to train your employees in the correct response, and if you run a school or a public building to train visitors, tenants and users in how to respond to threats. Things such as flagging up unattended or suspicious items are important, and building users should be informed of the importance of saying something if they see something unusual or potentially dangerous.
Try to resist the urge to be a hero and 'handle' someone who is making threats, or to deal with a suspicious package by yourself. Always let the authorities handle it. They have people who are trained in bomb disposal and who have a better understanding of how to deal with people who may be unstable. An untrained negotiator getting involved could make the situation worse - especially if the threat is real.
You should contact the authorities, and keep people away from the suspicious package. Do so discretely and try to make sure that everyone remains calm. If you can allow business to go on as usual around the threats, then this will be a great help. It is not always possible to do so, however, depending on the nature of the threat and the details that the caller provided you with.
The authorities may recommend that you close the school or evacuate your building, depending on the information in the threat. If they do this, then you should follow their recommendations. Even if the threat turns out to be fake, caution is a sensible course of action. Threats are always taken seriously. Reporting fake threats may help the police to track down the person who is making them.