Each year, thousands of businesses, schools, and other establishments are mailed suspicious items (e.g., unmarked packages) or are the target of bomb threats. These threats can be made via phone calls, letters, social media channels, emails, or other similar means.
Bomb threats and suspicious items are often used to cause alarm, panic, disruption, or, in extreme cases, direct harm. However these threats are made, organizations of all kinds need to take them seriously and know how to respond appropriately.
What to do if you receive a bomb threat
Businesses often wrongly assume they aren’t at risk of a bomb threat. However, the truth is that no organization is 100 percent safe from malicious attacks or threats, making proper preparation all the more important. In the event that your organization receives a bomb threat—whether it be over the phone, via email or another means—follow these procedures.
Threats made over the phone
Remain calm. Keep the caller on the line for as long as possible, and don’t hang up even if the caller does.
Signal or pass a note to another staff member, instructing them to notify the authorities. If this isn’t possible, call 911 from another phone after the caller hangs up.
Document as much information about the call as possible. Details related to a caller ID number, the wording of the threat, the time of the call, background noises on the caller’s end, and the tone and inflection of the caller can all aid investigators. If possible, ask questions to infer specific details about the threat itself, including:
- Who is making the threat, and where they are calling from
- The type of device and when it might go off
- What the device looks like
- Where the device is located
- Who the target is
- Record the call if possible
- Be available for interviews.
- Follow any instructions from facility supervisors and local authorities. These individuals will also provide specific guidance related to facility lockdowns, searches, or evacuations.
Threats made via email, online platforms, the mail or other source
Preserve the threat. If the threat is made online, take a screenshot. If the threat is made through the mail, store it in a safe place and handle it as minimally as possible.
Note where the threat was found, who found it and when they found it.
Wait for further instructions from the proper authorities.
In the event of a threat, staff members should avoid using two-way radios, cellular phones or any other electronics, as signals from these devices could potentially detonate a bomb. In addition, you should avoid activating alarms or evacuating the building until the proper authorities evaluate the threat. Law enforcement officials will direct the evacuation if one is necessary.
What to do if you find or receive a suspicious item
In general, a suspicious item is any item—like a bag or package—that is believed to contain explosives, improvised explosive devices or hazardous materials. When it comes to identifying these items, you should watch out for unexplainable or unusual wires, electronics, sounds, vapors, mists or odors.
It is not uncommon for establishments to find or receive suspicious items and, while they may end up being harmless, it’s good practice to be overly cautious. As a good rule of thumb, any item that is Hidden, Obviously suspicious and not Typical (HOT) should be deemed suspicious.
In the event that your organization finds or receives a suspicious item, you should:
- Remain calm.
- Avoid touching, tampering, or moving the item.
- Notify the proper authorities and your facility supervisor. Follow any and all of their instructions carefully.
Plan ahead and stay safe
When it comes to bomb threats and suspicious items, every situation is unique. Typically, facility supervisors and law enforcement officials will be in the best position to assess the situation, determine if a real risk is present and provide instruction on how to respond.
For even more protection, businesses should review guidance provided by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Department of Justice. Doing so can help you better prepare for potential threats.
For more workplace safety advice and risk mitigation tips, contact Witkemper Insurance Group today.