Bomb Threat Series: Schools
Ways to Prepare, Performing Drills & Writing Plans
Unfortunately, bomb threats seem to be a norm for many high schools around the country and even lower grade level schools. Depending on the amount of evacuations per year, students and staff can become desensitized to the fact that there is imminent danger during a bomb threat. Preparing for a bomb threat at your school, performing drills, and writing plans are proven options to increase the effectiveness of a response if a bomb threat ever happens on your campus.
How to Prepare:
Preparing for a bomb threat is a measure taken to prevent panic during a threat and for individuals trained to respond effectively. Start with your school staff and work to bring a heightened sense of awareness to the issue. The staff should be responsible for informing students that bomb threat evacuations are not a joke, nor are they a time to get out of classwork. Instead, bomb threat evacuations, whether real or drills, are a time to prepare and practice. You can also prepare to prevent some threats by warning that all threats are responded to fully and that anyone caught making a false threat will be punished according to the law and district guidelines. In each classroom and office, printed and precise guidelines should be posted in plain sight. Your bomb threat guideline should include instructions on what to do and what not to do and a bomb threat checklist the call taker can follow to give authorities as much information as possible.
Before having a school wide, real life drill, take the time to meet with teachers and staff in a tabletop setting. This gives the opportunity to run a variety of scenarios in a more concise time frame and the opportunity to make changes to the plans and procedures as needed. Teachers and students should not be the only ones that take part in your school’s bomb threat drills. Go through each step of the process from answering the phone to noticing a suspicious package with everyone that has the potential to be involved, including receptionists and custodians. It is important to remember to always practice as if it were a real incident and to always announce it is just a drill and there is no imminent danger.
Writing bomb threat emergency plans for your school or district can be a large task to accomplish, but these tips can help to relieve some stress. In your plans, include a way to communicate with first responders and school administrators that does not include two-way radios, or anything else that works off of a frequency, as these devices can cause a premature detonation. Write clear instructions for a variety of bomb threats that you might receive. For instance, your plans should include how to respond if you receive a bomb threat on the phone, via email, or notice a suspicious package. These should be clearly defined and training should be done on each scenario. Your school’s bomb threat plans need to lay out the roles and responsibilities for your bomb threat response team, including how they are mobilized, and how they interact and work with first responders to provide an effective response. Your school’s bomb threat emergency plan should also include the bomb threat checklist that is left near telephones in your buildings. Your checklist typically includes places for the call taker to take thorough notes such as the time, an explanation of the caller’s voice, any distinct background noise, where the bomb is, and when it will go off. It also includes a few questions the call taker can ask the suspect to get more information.
Bomb threats are a serious issue that surrounds the overall safety and security of a school. It can be difficult to foresee a threat and it is difficult to tell if a threat is real or a hoax, making it a situation that must be taken seriously every time. Preparing your school for bomb threats helps to provide a more cohesive response during an actual incident. You can also prepare your staff and student body by performing both real-life and tabletop drills and writing effective plans in case of an actual incident. Do you prepare your district or individual schools through drills and emergency plans? Let us know in the comment below!