Reality Alert: Several Jewish Community Centers across the country recently reported receiving bomb threats. While none of these threats resulted in an actual explosion, a bomb threat can be very traumatizing for patrons and employees alike. JCCs often house childcare centers and cater to elderly patrons at their facilities. This makes evacuations especially challenging.
Preparing for a Bomb Threat
Although rare, bomb threats must be taken seriously. Part of your organization’s emergency action plan should include specific actions if there’s a bomb threat. Consider these steps when planning:
- Coordinating with local law enforcement;
- Developing a clear chain of command so employees know who to go to if they receive a threat;
- Determining search procedures and evacuation plans;
- Choosing assembly areas for an evacuation; and
- Determining how to alert employees and patrons to evacuate.
Many of these actions are similar to planning for an active shooter scenario.
Types of Bomb Threats
Bomb threats are most commonly received by phone. A threat can also be delivered in person, through the mail, or by email. The Department of Homeland Security offers a very useful bomb threat checklist for any organization that receives a threat. Here’s what the Department suggests if you receive a threat by phone:
- Try to keep the caller on the line as long as you can. Ask questions to keep them talking.
- Do not hang up even if the caller does.
- If possible, get the attention of another staff member who can also listen to the call and help notify supervisors and authorities.
- Write down as much information about the call as possible: number calling from, exact words/phrases, what the caller’s voice sounds like, etc.
- Record the call if possible.
If a person makes a threat and then leaves, pay attention to where they go. Quickly write down a description of the person for authorities. For a threat that comes through the mail, try not to handle the package/envelope and contact the police. If anyone in the organization receives a threatening email, leave it open on the computer. Do not delete the message. Notify managers and authorities immediately.
If an employee or patron finds a suspicious package in the facility, it’s important to take this just as seriously as any other threat. The Department of Homeland Security also has tips for dealing with a suspicious package:
- Stay calm.
- Do not touch or move the item.
- Notify supervisors and authorities immediately.
- Follow instructions from supervisors and authorities about evacuating or sheltering-in-place.
- Be aware. There could be other threats or suspicious items in other areas of the facility.