All of us would like to believe that we’ll never be faced with receiving a bomb threat or finding a suspicious package.  Yet, today we are aware that institutions of higher education can become the target of terrorists as readily as any other organization or person. While we don’t want to sound like the voice of doom and gloom, we must try to prepare you for any eventuality on campus.

OU has developed procedures for responding to bomb threats and suspicious packages or persons.  The decision on whether or not to immediately evacuate students and employees has been extensively considered by our administration, and their final decision has been published. Your responsibility lies in knowing the decision and conveying it to fellow employees and nearby students when an incident occurs. It’s also your responsibility to cooperate with bomb, police, and fire personnel in their response to and investigation of an incident.

Some Statistics

During 1991-1995, a total of 314 explosive incidents occurred in Oklahoma, and a total of 639 incidents occurred at educational institutions nationwide.  Motives for these incidents have been vandalism, revenge, protest, extortion, labor relations, insurance fraud, and homicide or suicide (see


Investigations reveal that the tar-gets for terrorist bombings are not selected at random—they are selected because of political or personal gain to the terrorist.  Reconnaissance of the target is made to locate an area where a bomb can be concealed, do the most damage, and where the person is least likely to be observed.  This usually means that the target has been kept under surveillance to determine entrances, exits, and hours in order to determine when few people are at the site, often with an intent to destroy property without injuring or killing people.

There are only two reasonable explanations for calls reporting that a bomb is to go off.  The first is that the caller has knowledge or believes an explosive or incendiary has been or will be placed, and he/she wants to minimize injury or property damage.  He/she may be the bomber or some-one who has become aware of the information.  The second is that the caller wants to create an atmosphere of anxiety and panic, which may result in a disruption of normal activities at the site.


Panic—a sudden, unreasoning, excessive terror—is one of the most contagious of all human emotions.  It is caused by fear of the known or unknown and can be the ultimate intent of the caller.  By establishing and using organizational plans and procedures, your department can instill confidence and minimize panic. Your response to bomb threats brings to mind the old adage; “Practice makes perfect!”  We wish to re-mind you that it is only by practicing procedures that you will be able to quickly respond in the event of a bomb incident.

Phone Threats


The OU Department of Public Safety (5-2864) has established a bomb threat checklist.  It is a convenient form that can be kept readily available at departmental phones.  The authorities will depend upon you to gather the following information:

  1. Where is the bomb?

  2. When is it going to explode? 

  3. What does it look like?

  4. What kind of bomb is it?

  5. What will cause it to explode?

  6. Did you place the bomb?

  7. Why?

  8. Where are you calling from?

  9. What is your address?

  10. What is your name?



















Written Threats

When a written message is recognized as a bomb threat, further handling should be avoided. Save all materials, including any envelope or container.  While written messages are most usually associated with general threats and extortion attempts, a written warning should never be ignored.

Suspicious Objects

Caution is the name of the game when an unexplained package suddenly appears in your office or is found tucked away in a corner of your building. This is especially true of unexpected mail. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms has identified these characteristics which indicate that the package may be a bomb:

If you are unable to account for the presence of a package, brief-case, or other container, it’s best to have it examined in place by qualified public safety experts.  Don’t disturb it and don’t change any conditions (turn on or off lights, adjust a thermostat, move furnishings, etc.).  Isolate the package by clearing people from the area and summon experts.

Suspicious mail should be isolated from people and protected from disturbance by locked doors and posted warnings.  Because the sender knows the package will be handled by machinery and people enroute to the addressee, mail bombs are normally stable unless/ until opened/disrupted.  Always call the police if you receive a suspicious package in the mail or find one in your facility.


Bombs can look like almost any-thing and can be placed in any number of ways. The probability of finding a “ticking” bomb is almost nonexistent.  You must be aware of the possibilities and practice for the eventuality.