Bomb Threat ... What Now?

By Reilly, Joseph A. | Security Management, September 1989 | Go to article overview

Bomb Threat ... What Now?


Reilly, Joseph A., Security Management


BOMB THREAT . . . WHAT NOW?

NOTHING DISCONCERTS A SEcurity manager more than an evacuation, especially when the cause is a bomb threat. Bomb threats are always inconvenient. While most are hoaxes, 2 to 5 percent are not. Therefore, bomb threats must be taken seriously and addressed immediately.

Modern businesses try to keep operating in almost any type of crisis. On the other hand, today's corporate manager knows that employees are the company's most important asset and must be properly protected. As a result, security managers and corporate executives involved in the evacuation decision-making process are damned if they do and damned if they don't. Nevertheless, when employee well-being is endangered by a bomb threat, a stand must be taken.

All bomb threats comprise a cluster of stated facts that can be broken down into elements. These elements can be further broken down into two types, basic and special.

The three basic elements in a bomb threat are statements involving a caller, a location, and a recipient. The caller can be any anonymous person. A location is a building or structure of any type, and a recipient can be any person - a company officer, secretary, or other employee. Since a bomb threat is usually made by telephone, the recipient of the threat is often not the intended victim. Because such calls are sometimes very brief, the recipient cannot always note the particulars of the threat. Therefore, recipients must be interviewed very precisely by security personnel to determine the pertinent elements of the threat. Once the facts are gleaned and the elements determined, a decision can be made.

The special elements in a bomb threat are more specific, and they simplify the decision-making process. The special elements consist of a specific floor, department, or victim; a specific time; a specific caller; and a specific reason for the call.

For example, you are the security manager of the Acme National Bank. At 2:00 pm, you receive a call from a male with a Spanish accent. The caller says, "This is the FALN. There is a bomb in the Acme National Bank at State and Stone streets. The bomb is in the loan department on the third floor, and it is set to go off at 3:00 pm. We hate you people because you have cut us off from our proper consideration."

This call provides the basic bomb threat elements of location and recipient. More importantly, it also involves all the special elements.

With respect to the first special element, a specific department has been named: The victim will be the loan department of the Acme National Bank at State and Stone streets. The second special element was also satisfied: The caller said the detonation would occur at 3:00 pm. The caller spoke with a Spanish accent and said he was from the FALN (Fuerzas Armadas de Liberacion National), a known subversive organization, thus satisfying the third special element. The fourth special element was satisfied when the caller gave his reason: "We hate you people because you have cut us off from our proper consideration."

Because all the special elements have been satisfied, an evacuation must be considered, as should a search. In this scenario, the time available to conduct a search (between the time the call was received and the time of detonation) is one hour. Allowing five to 10 minutes for notifications and responses, the detonation time is now only about 50 minutes away. Considering the size of the average loan department, 50 to 55 minutes should be enough time to conduct a search.

THE ISSUE GOVERNING A SEARCH before evacuation is time: It can be an enemy or an ally. If the time until detonation is determined to be less than half an hour, the company should not search - it should evacuate as soon as the decision can be made or else continue with business as usual. (For a graphic representation of the decision-making process, see the accompanying chart. …

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