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.
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 http://www.atf.treas.gov).
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
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.
It is desirable that more than one person
listens to the call. Establish covert signals to notify coworkers of a
A calm response to the caller could
result in your obtaining additional information.
This is especially true if the caller wishes to avoid injuries and
deaths. If told the building is
occupied or cannot be evacuated in time, the caller may give specific
information on the location, components, or method of detonation.
Keep the caller on the line as long as
possible. Ask the caller to
repeat the message. Record the
exact words spoken by the caller.
If the caller does not indicate the
location of the bomb or the time of detonation, ask for this information.
Listen carefully for peculiar background
noises, such as motors running, children playing, music, and any other
noises that may give clues to the location of the caller.
Use a “Bomb Threat Check-list” to
record the details of the call.
Immediately after the caller hangs up,
report the call to 911. (Police will want to talk first-hand with the
person(s) who took the call, so remain available until you are re-leased by
Then, follow the instructions of the
authorities and the procedures established by OU, which may or may not
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:
Date and exact time of call?
Exact words of the caller?
Questions to ask:
Where is the bomb?
When is it going to explode?
What does it look like?
What kind of bomb is it?
What will cause it to explode?
Did you place the bomb?
Where are you calling from?
What is your address?
What is your name?
Please circle one or more descriptions of the caller’s voice:
If the voice sounded familiar, whom did it
Were there any background noises?
Any other remarks?
Name of person receiving the call?
Telephone line on which the call was received?
Was the call recorded?
(Save the tape for authorities.)
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.
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:
Excessive or no postage.
Rigid or bulky envelope.
Address is badly typed or written,
misspelled, a title with no name, or wrong title with name.
No return address.
Restrictive markings (such as personal).
Oily stains on wrapper.
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.