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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.

Obviously if you can get all the way to "Why are you doing this?," it's a signal that it is indeed a genuine threat. If the guy is on the phone with you that long and is willing give that much information, there is a high chance it is real. Specificity is a defining feature of a valid threat.

What are the motivations for someone to make a bomb-threat call? The first is an overwhelming desire to cause destruction, panic, concern and anxiety. If a person is calling and there is a device, it could be that the bomber wants to cause terrific property damage but doesn't want to hurt anybody. In fact, that's the reason a great number of actual bomb incidents occur during non-business hours. You'd be surprised how often that is the case. They want to strike out against the organization, but they don't want to be guilty of murder.

Once you've received a threat, there's a general assumption among the public at large that the threat automatically means everybody leaves. But with all the companies we're working with, I can't think of a single one that in a knee-jerk reaction evacuates the building simply because a threat was made.

First of all, we know that 98 percent of bomb threats are false. Secondly, if it's a vengeful employee who wants to create disruption or, for example, it's Friday afternoon and someone decides they want a long weekend, they might call in a bomb threat.

Whatever the motivation might be, there's a definite trend that if you automatically evacuate the building, that pretty much ensures that you haven't had your last bomb threat. You're going to see more.

There are some other factors that are not generally considered. One is that, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, it's generally accepted that 80 percent of devicesroughly 8 of 10that are planted are not left inside the building and but outside, on the perimeter. That's the most effective place to put a bomb because it's easier to get access. Consequently, if we take people that may be relatively safe inside the building and tell them to evacuate, we may have just taken them to straight to the device.

We recommend to clients that if they evacuate all or part of the building, then they should choose rally points that are at least 300 feet from the building and educate the workforce about them in advance. We also advise that they stay away from parking lots as rally points because anyone who pays attention to the news knows that in this day and age, the favorite delivery method for an explosive device is a vehicle.


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