There's a bomb in the building... Are you sure you can protect your staff?

There are a number of procedures that need to be in place to effectively handle a bomb threat (

When you receive a bomb threat, the safety of your employees should be top priority.

Bomb threats are an unfortunate reality of today’s world. Whether you’ve been in business for years or are just starting out, you may be faced with this unpleasant event at least once in your lifetime.

If you’re lucky, a bomb threat will be nothing but a disgruntled employee trying his luck at being the office prankster. If you’re not so lucky, it will be some random idiot having fun at your expense. But if you’re really unlucky, a bomb threat could mean a life-threatening incident. Regardless of the seriousness of the bomb threat, you need to be thoroughly prepared for any event.

The probability of finding a bomb that looks like your typical pipe or petrol bomb is close to none. Bombs can be constructed to look like just about anything and can be delivered or placed in a number of ways. The only commonality between bombs is that they are designed with the intention for them to explode. Therefore, when you receive something that looks even remotely suspicious, treat it as a threat. The last thing you need is to be caught off guard. 

Preparing for a bomb threat

Two plans are important when preparing to cope with a bomb incident:

  • A physical security plan will provide your business with protection of your property, personnel, facilities and material should there be any unauthorised entry, trespassing, damage or any criminal acts.
  • A bomb incident plan will outline detailed procedures that will need to be followed when a bomb attack is threatened or executed. In planning for the bomb incident, a definite chain of command or line of authority must be established.
  • Read: The legality of bag searches in the workplace

    Responding to a bomb threat

    When a bomb threat is received via the telephone, it is always a good idea if more than one person can listen in on the call. Calmly responding to the bomb threat caller could result in getting more information. This is even truer in cases where the caller does not intend to harm anyone. When a bomb threat is called in, the following actions should be taken:

  • Keep the caller on the line for as long as you can. You can achieve this by asking him or her to repeat the message. Make sure you record everything they say.
  • Inform the caller that the building is occupied and that detonating the bomb could result in serious injuries or deaths.
  • Pay attention to the background noises. This could lead to valuable information about the caller’s location.
  • Listen closely to the caller’s voice, voice quality, accent and speech impediments. This will help indicate the caller’s identity.
  • Report the information to the police department as soon as possible.
  • In the case of a written threat, save all the materials, including envelopes and containers the bomb threat was received in. Once the bomb threat has been confirmed, don’t tamper with it. Every effort must be made to retain evidence such as fingerprints.

    Read: Issuing warnings in the workplace

    Evacuating the building

    You need to create an evacuation unit, consisting of a leader and several key team members. The organisation of this unit and its training should be coordinated with the development of the bomb incident plan, as well as with all the occupants of your office building.

    The evacuation unit should be trained in how to evacuate the building during a bomb threat, taking into consideration things such as the priority of evacuation; evacuating the floor levels above and below the danger area.

    You may also train the evacuation unit on how to search for the bomb. You can assign search wardens, team leaders and the like, to search for the bomb. To be effective in searching the building, the task team must be thoroughly familiar with the ins and outs of the building. Even when the police or firefighters arrive to your building, they will be unfamiliar with the floor plan, which is why it’s important for the search team to know the contents of the building from the back of their hands.

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