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Bomb Threat Procedures

Most bomb threats are made over the phone. The overwhelming majority are hoaxes, often the work of malicious pranksters, although terrorists also make hoax calls.
Any such hoax is a crime and, no matter how ridiculous or unconvincing, should be reported to the police.

Calls from terrorists fall into two kinds:
  • bomb threats when none has actually been planted. These hoaxes may not be merely malicious but designed to disrupt, to test reactions or to divert attention;
  • bomb threats warning of a genuine device. These may be attempts to avoid casualties, but they also enable the terrorist to blame others if there are casualties.
Even genuine threats are frequently inaccurate with regard to where and when a bomb might explode, and staff receiving a bomb threat may not always be those trained and prepared for it. But although they may be unable to assess a threat's accuracy or origin, their impressions of the caller could be important.

Receiving such a threat may be the closest that many people ever come to acts of terrorism, so be prepared for affected staff to be temporarily in a state of shock. Affected individuals may need counselling or other support.

What you Can Do
  • Ensure that all staff who could conceivably receive a bomb threat are trained in handling procedures - or at least have ready access to instructions. This applies particularly to courts, banks, hotels, hospitals, news agencies, public transport organisations, voluntary organisations and those offering any sort of emergency service. Switchboard operators should be familiar with procedures and rehearse them regularly.
  • Draw up, ideally with advice from your local police CTSA, a clear and accessible list of actions to take on receipt of a call (see below), or use the bomb threat checklist elsewhere on this website. Your list should include the following instructions.
  • Stay calm and listen.
  • Obtain as much information as possible - try to get the caller to be precise about the location and timing of the alleged bomb and try to establish whom they represent. If possible, keep the caller talking.
  • Ensure that any recording facility is switched on.
  • When the caller rings off, dial 1471 (if that facility operates and you have no automatic number display) to see if you can get their number.
  • Immediately tell the designated Security Co-ordinator. It is their responsibility to decide on the best course of action and who should notify the police. If you cannot get hold of anyone, and even if you think the call is a hoax, inform the police directly. Give them your impressions of the caller as well as an exact account of what was said.
  • If you have not been able to record the call, make notes for the security staff or police. Do not leave your post - unless ordered to evacuate - until the police or security arrive.
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