Definition: Bomb threats are a violation of the law, and charges will be filed against persons making such threats. A bomb threat is legally defined as the communication through the use of mail, e-mail, telephone, telegram, or other instrument of commerce; the willful making of any threat; or the malicious conveyance of false information knowing the same to be false which concerns an attempt being made, or to be made; to kill, injure, intimidate any individual; or unlawfully to damage or destroy any building, vehicle, or other real or personal property by means of an explosive.
General: There are only three reasonable explanations for receiving a bomb threat.
First, the caller has definite knowledge or believes that an explosive or incendiary device has been or will be placed in an area and wants to minimize personal injury or property damage. The caller may be the person who placed the device or someone else who has become aware of such information.
Second, the caller wants to create an atmosphere of anxiety and panic, which will possibly result in a disruption of the normal activities at the target area. When a threat has been received, there will be a reaction to it. If the call is directed to a target area where a vacuum in leadership exists or where there has been no organized advance planning to handle such a threat, the call may well result in panic.
Third, the caller wants to bring about or amplify a lack of confidence in existing leadership or programs. By injecting panic into a normal operational situation through fear of the known or unknown, the caller may achieve his or her ultimate goals; i.e., an increased potential for personal injury, property damage, or evacuation or shutdown of essential facilities which result in unacceptable economic loss.
Past experience has revealed that targets for terrorists' bombings or threats have not been selected at random. The target is generally selected because of political, real or imagined personal gain to the terrorist. Today, more of these threats are materializing. The university's first consideration must be for the safety of its people. It is necessary to determine immediately whether a bomb threat is real. Plans devised to cope with these threats are formulated with these thoughts in mind.
Preparation: It is absolutely essential that issues of communication and planning be made in advance to safely handle bomb threats; therefore, clear-cut levels of authority have been established. It is important that each person handle his or her assignment without delay and without any manifestation of fear.
Only by having an established organization and procedures can these problems be handled with the least risk to all concerned and instill confidence so that there will be no panic.
There is little probability of receiving a warning call where an explosive or incendiary has actually been placed; however, the university cannot ignore the fact that there have been instances where a threatening call was not a hoax. In a few instances, the person making a warning call has given the recipient enough information to aid in determining the caller's identity. In addition, there have been cases where the caller has described the device, given its location, and stated the time that the device was to be detonated or ignited.
It is for these reasons that personnel normally responsible for answering the telephone in any campus office should be instructed in advance to do the following:
- When the caller has communicated the threat, stay calm; do not show fear. Make a note as to the date and time of day.
- Keep the caller talking; the more he/she says, the more can be learned.
- Record every word the caller says if possible.
- If the caller does not indicate the location of the bomb or the time of detonation, ask the caller what time it is to go off and where it is located. If the caller has answered any of the above questions and is still on the line, ask for his/her name and try to determine the call's origin. Although the caller may not respond, it's important to ask these questions.
- It may be advisable to inform the caller that the building is occupied and the detonation of a bomb could result in death or serious injury to many innocent people.
- Listen closely to the voice of the caller and note the following:
- Sex of Caller
- Age of Caller
- Race of Caller
- Accent (Is the voice native to the area?)
- Speech Impediments or Peculiar Voice Characteristics
- Attitude of Caller
- Pay particular attention to any strange or peculiar background noises, such as street noises, motors running, music, television or radio programs, dishes rattling, babies crying and other
background noise that might give even a remote clue as to the origin of the call.
- Notify only the department head and the Department of Public Safety. Do not discuss the call with anyone unless authorized to do so. Do not leave your post or assignment unless instructed to do so by the person in charge.
Since the Department of Public Safety will be interested in talking firsthand with the person receiving the call, this person should remain available until officers arrive on the scene.
In order to reduce the potential placement of an explosive or incendiary device, the university can tighten physical security in some areas. Not only will this reduce the chances of having a bomb brought on to the campus, but search efforts can be maximized by doing the following:
- During the inspection of the building, particular attention should be given to such areas as elevator shafts, ceiling areas, rest rooms, access doors, crawl spaces and other areas which are used as a means of immediate access; plumbing fixtures, electrical fixtures, utility and closet areas, areas under stairwells, boiler (furnace) rooms, flammable storage areas, electrical switches, gas or fuel valves, indoor trash receptacles, record storage areas, mail rooms, ceiling lights with easily removable panels, and fire hose racks. While this list is not complete, it is sufficient to give an idea of those areas where a time-delay explosive or an incendiary device might be concealed.
- Establish procedures for the control and inspection of packages and materials going into critical areas.
- Develop a positive means of identifying and controlling personnel who have authorized access to critical areas and denying access to unauthorized personnel.
- Instruct all personnel to be alert for suspicious individuals. All personnel should be alert to the presence of foreign or suspicious objects or parcels which do not appear to belong in the area where they are observed.
- Instruct all personnel throughout the building to be especially aware of all rest rooms, stairwells, and areas under stairwells to ensure that unauthorized personnel are not in hiding or concealment.
- Ensure that doors and/or access ways to such areas as boiler rooms, mail rooms, computer areas, switchboards, elevator machine rooms and utility closets are securely locked when not in use.
- Check fire exits to make sure they are not obstructed.
- Assure adequate protection for classified documents, proprietary information and other records essential to the daily operation of the university. (A well-planted device could, upon detonation, destroy records that are vital for day-to-day operations.)
- Check all exterior and protective lighting for proper operation and adequate illumination.
- Conduct daily checks for good housekeeping and proper disposal of combustible material.
- In the event electric power is shut off, have flashlights or battery powered lanterns available.
While all of the above measures might not apply to all university departments, some of them will, and the implementation of any of these measures will offer some protection.