Since the attacks of September 11, 2001, many organizations, such as schools, businesses and government agencies, have added procedures related to the bomb threats to the traditional slate of emergency drills. Although specific exercises and procedures vary depending on location and organization, most follow similar formats.
Most organizations will develop bomb-threat contingency plans specific to the nature of the facility and its users. Contingency plans outline specific duties of staff and residents in the event of a bomb threat, as well as critical information such as contact information for authorities, checklists for evacuation procedures and the location to which to evacuate. In all cases, contingency plans should be developed with the cooperation of organizational administrators and local law enforcement authorities, potentially with the consultation of security specialists. Plans should be written up and distributed to relevant staff members.
Bomb Threat Reporting
In the case of most crimes, the correct course of action is to simply contact local emergency services by dialing 911. Bomb threats are different, however. One aspect of the contingency plan should outline who needs to be notified in the event that a bomb is discovered at the facility or a threat is issued. According to security consultants Safe Havens International, organizations must know which local authorities to contact first in the event of a threat and should identify key staff and residents who should be alerted. In Monterey, California, local officials are provided written instructions specifying exactly how to react to a bomb threat. For example, in the the event of a threat made by phone, the official is told not to hang up, even if the caller does; to listen carefully to what the caller says; to ask the caller a predetermined series of question, such as "Where is the bomb located?" and "When will it go off?"; and to attempt to pass a note to colleagues informing them of the situation.
Bomb Threat Evacuation
Organizations, businesses and government agencies run regular drills to prepare employees and residents for bomb threats. According to the bomb threat evacuation procedures developed by Monterey County, California, use of the phrases "bomb," "explosion" or "blow up" can trigger panic. The administrators of drills, just like those responding to actual incidents, should avoid this specific language and instead request that residents leave the facility in a quick, orderly fashion. People should evacuate to a predetermined destination some distance from the building via a specific route. The Somerset County Council, for example, states that residents should report to the designated area but should avoid a path on which they pass under tall buildings.
Suspicious Package Identification
It's important to train staff or residents to identify suspicious packages or articles of luggage. Workers for a public transportation system may be trained to be on the lookout for unclaimed bags or boxes that appear to contain wires or other potential bomb-making materials. When a suspicious package is found, the staff is trained to quickly and efficiently clear the area and notify the proper authorities. Some public transportation systems have included customers in the process as well. New York City's Metropolitan Transportation Authority regularly encourages passengers to report suspicious or unattended parcels to staff.
Michael Wolfe has been writing and editing since 2005, with a background including both business and creative writing. He has worked as a reporter for a community newspaper in New York City and a federal policy newsletter in Washington, D.C. Wolfe holds a B.A. in art history and is a resident of Brooklyn, N.Y.