What to Do if There's a Bomb Threat at Your Office

We live in a volatile climate. Bomb threats and other dangers are becoming more common. Even if they aren't authentic — such as the airport worker who called in such a threat to avoid going to work in 2014 —you still need to treat each occurrence as though there is an actual bomb on the premises. Here is a step-by-step guide of what you need to do if there's a bomb threat at your office.

1. Stay Calm

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Before you ever need one, make sure you have a bomb threat plan in place. All employees should know how to respond to a threat — either real or fake — while remaining calm.

The Department of Homeland Security has a comprehensive to-do list to help you create your own plan so you'll be prepared for whatever happens. The most important thing you can do is remain calm. There are three primary ways through which you might receive a bomb threat: by phone, by handwritten or printed note, or by email. You may also find a suspicious package on your property that may or may not be accompanied by a written threat.

Stay calm and move on to the next step.

2. Collect as Much Information as Possible

Since you will be the first point of contact between the person delivering the threat and your company, it's up to you to collect as much information as possible about the caller or the person making the threat. If it comes in by phone, try to keep the caller on the line as long as possible. Ask them questions and be polite. Showing interest can often keep them talking. While you talk, take notes about everything from the caller's gender and possible age to their mood and the exact wording they use.

All the information you collect can be used by investigators to determine who made the threat in the first place. While you're taking notes and keeping the caller engaged, pass a message to another college and instruct them to contact the authorities.

This checklist from the Department of Homeland Security can help you determine what questions to ask and the kind of information to collect.

3. Contact Emergency Services

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Regardless of the circumstances of the threat, you will always want to call 911 or its equivalent in your country and alert emergency services. This is non-negotiable. While the majority of bomb threats are hoaxes, you don't want to get into the habit of not alerting emergency services when a call comes in. According to the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, there were 1,627 reported bomb threats in 2018, with offices and businesses making up more than one-third of the targeted buildings.

Yes, this will mean you will lose an afternoon of work. Yes, this will mean waiting for police, fire and possibly even the local bomb squad while they do their jobs. Yes, it is scary and exhausting, but it will ensure the safety of your team and your customers.

Call 911 and follow their instructions. If they haven't already told you to do so, move on to the next step.

4. Evacuate the Building

If you receive a bomb threat, once you've collected information from the caller and dialed emergency services, your next step will be to evacuate the building. Get your team and any customers out and a safe distance away while you wait for the police and other emergency services to arrive. Find somewhere safe to stay. If you're still in contact with the 911 dispatcher, let them know where you're waiting so the police they send out will know where to find you.

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This is probably the longest and most drawn-out part of the process. Depending on the size of the building, it can take minutes or hours for the bomb squad to make sure your building is safe.

Be patient, stay in touch with your contact and move on to the final step.

5. Wait for Emergency Services to Clear You

All that's left to do is wait for emergency services to clear the building and ensure it's safe for you to re-enter.  In most cases, the threat is going to be a hoax. For that one time it's not, it's best to let your local emergency services personnel do their jobs. Be patient.

Once the police and the bomb squad clear things, they'll permit you to re-enter the building, and you can get back to business as usual. You may lose an afternoon or even a full day, but it's worth it to ensure your team and your customers are safe.

Always Be Prepared

No one wants to think about receiving a bomb threat, but it does happen. The best thing you can do is to be prepared. If you don't already have a plan in place for dealing with threats, start setting one up now. Hopefully, you'll never need it — but it's better to be ready in case you do

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