Bomb Threat Series: Place of Worship
What to Know & How to Respond
It is no secret that places of worship tend to be under particular scrutiny from opposing parties, but staying vigilant can significantly increase security for your grounds and congregation. Your security team and office personnel should know what makes a package suspicious and what to do if they notice a suspicious package or answer a call that is a bomb threat. Bomb threats can be made by phone, hand written note, email, or just a package. Below are things that you should be aware of and how to react if you perceive that your place of worship has received a bomb threat.
What to do
If you receive a bomb threat via a phone call, do not hang up. Try to keep the caller on the phone for as long as possible. Get someone else’s attention and have them call 9-1-1 from another phone. Remain calm and take as many notes as possible such as the gender of the caller, their exact words, and any obvious sounds in the background such as an emergency vehicle, or waves crashing. Also, note the number and name that appears on the phone. After the caller hangs up, do not hang up your line, but use another line to contact law enforcement. Avoid using any two-way radios because the frequency can sometimes detonate a bomb. Follow directions of law enforcement and any bomb squads that respond.
If you suspect that a package is suspicious, do not handle it. Contact authorities immediately and avoid the area around the package. Below are some distinctive features of a suspicious package:
- No return address
- Excessive postage
- Misspelled words
- Strange noise and/or odor
- Heavy on one side
- Cut & paste lettering
- Excessively wrapped with tape or paper
Your place of worship should keep a threat checklist near each phone in your facility. It should include spaces to write the exact time of the call and their words, how the caller’s voice sounds, and if the voice sounded familiar to the person answering the call, any background noise, and information that the caller gives. This information includes when the bomb will explode, where it is located, and what type of bomb it is. Your safety team and daily office staff should be trained and prepared to identify a suspicious package and take a bomb threat call. Knowing this valuable information can help mitigate risk to your place of worship during emergencies like bomb threats.