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What it's like to respond to a bomb threat

Joan Goodchild | Dec. 22, 2010
Over 98 per cent of all bomb threats are falseand very few actual bomb incidents, where someone successfully plants an explosive device, are preceded by threats.

Fredrick Foster, vice president with Andrews International, is an authority on recognition and response to potential violence.

Fredrick Foster: I was a police officer before I migrated into the world of private security. Back in the day, we used to respond to bomb threats. Law enforcement agencies don't typically do that anymore. There are a variety of liability reasons for that and also couple of practical ones, but we used to regularly do bomb searches.

For the last 20 years, I've worked as a contract security manager and have been helping clients deal with these types of problems. I teach response tactics to client emergency-response teams and security managers.

Over 98 per cent of all bomb threats are falseand very few actual bomb incidents, where someone successfully plants an explosive device, are preceded by threats. But with both, a small business can be targeted as much as a giant corporation, or a school system, or a church or synagogue.

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A well-prepared organization has an emergency-response team. It's very common in today's corporate environments to have people who are volunteers, or in some cases even compensated for the extra duty and responsibility of being emergency responders for everything from medical emergencies to fires to evacuations due to bomb threats. In well-organized companies, the primary gatekeepers of the corporationthe receptionist for example, because nearly 100 percent of bomb threats are perpetrated by telephoneneed to be trained. Ideally, everyone is oriented to the fact that when any person within the organization receives a bomb threat, there are certain things they need to do.

Various law enforcement agencies, including the FBI's bomb data center, provide a formula for responding to such a threat. The one from the FBI is actually on card stock and is small enough that you can keep it right with you near your phone. It contains the essential questions you need to ask if you get a threatening call.

There needs to be a calmness and a matter-of-fact quality to a well-managed call. There's no point in getting hysterical. There are certain things you are trying to get from the caller. But I can tell you that in well over 98 percent of all bomb threats, there isn't any conversation at all. It's a one-sentence conversation. The caller says, "There's a bomb in your building." That's it.

We train people to ask questions like, "Where is the device in the building? When is it going to go off? Why are you doing this?" The most important thing to find out is when. The second most important thing to know is where. The third is what it looks like.

 

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