Bomb Threat Series: Movie Theaters
Keep Moviegoers Safe from Risk with Bomb Threat Plans
Movie theaters have been under increased scrutiny about their security measures and emergency response procedures in recent years, and unfortunately have been a target for those who wish to cause harm. Bomb threats have been on the rise in public areas such as movie theaters, and sometimes the facility is not up-to-date on training and emergency plans, reducing the effectiveness of the response. Today we want to close out our series by giving movie theater owners and managers tips on how to mitigate risk and respond to a bomb threat.
Your movie theater staff should be know what objects could be considered suspicious and how to respond if something is observed, and how to respond to a bomb threat call. A suspicious package can be something that is unexpectedly delivered to the facility, or even an unattended backpack in the theater, or near an exit. If a staff member notices something that they believe is suspicious, they should note its location, make sure that all guests stay away and call for a manager to make a decision on what the next step is. A manager can then use their training to determine if it is suspicious and if it requires law enforcement involvement. A suspicious package at your movie theater qualifies as anything that is left unattended for any length of time such as a backpack, a box, a briefcase, or an envelope. It may be in a theater, the lobby, outside in close proximity to the building, or in a bathroom. If there is a strange odor or noise, contact management immediately. Taking a bomb threat call can be stressful and invoke fear, but staying calm and getting as much information as possible from the caller can help mitigate the risk. Your theater should have a bomb threat call form that your staff can fill out as they receive the information. It should include time of day, any instructions the caller gave, the time of detonation, and where the bomb is located. Your staff should be trained on how to take these calls and what type of distinguishing features or noises that they hear such as music, speech impediment, gender of the caller, and background noise such as water.
If there is a threat or a suspicious item found, your staff should know the exact actions to take to keep everyone safe. If there is a suspicious package found, notify management immediately and they will contact the proper authorities. Avoid drawing attention to the matter and keep guests a safe distance away. If there is a bomb threat call made to your theater, stay on the phone with the caller as long as possible and ask as many questions to get information. While the call taker is on the phone, they should silently get another staff’s attention to get management to call authorities and begin evacuation procedures.
When law enforcement and other first responders, such as a bomb squad arrive, it is important for staff and guests to follow their directions exactly. They are professionals and they become the incident commander. It is unlikely that law enforcement knows the complete floor plan for your theater, so they may ask for management expertise on where things are located. Your theater manager should have master keys to all areas of your theater, and updated floor plan to give first responders and emergency shut off information for any equipment or utilities. Following the direction of first responders will help your threat go smoothly and reduce the possibility of an incident.
When responding to a bomb threat or suspicious package at your movie theater, staff should be accustomed to and informed on the procedures and how to react. By preplanning and training for these incidents, you are setting your theater and staff up for a successful, effective, and timely response where risk is mitigated and guests are kept out of harm’s way.