To evacuate or not to evacuate? That is the question.
With over 150 hoax bomb threats reported, you should have already have a plan. However, the ongoing threats should serve as a reminder to review our ongoing guidance, make use of the resources and implement the recommendations, as appropriate.
Should we be worried? At this time the experts conclude that the series of
incidents referencing threats against schools, Jewish facilities and businesses likely do not represent a credible terrorist threat for two reasons:
- terrorists’ rarely provide operational insight into their planning, and
- the fact that nearly all hoaxes in the United States are conducted by criminal actors or those instigating a nuisance prank.
What are my options? Many security experts question the wisdom of the policy of evacuation. After all, a terrorist could trigger an evacuation of a facility with a simple phone call and then attack the evacuees in multiple ways. On the other hand, someone could place 100 hoax bomb threat calls, but actually plant a bomb on the 101st. (In rebuttal, why make a warning phone call when simply planting the bomb works).
The bottom line is that there is no perfect solution, so all institutions should think about their options and consult with local law enforcement in the absence of the pressure of an actual emergency.
Think about options
Your response should be tailored to the nature of the threat. Don’t expect people to gather information, to analyze the situation and to identify the best option in the wake of a threat. Understand the risk (use the chart to the left) and define actions that can be taken under various circumstances.
Some other ideas:
- Set up a meeting with your local police to review and discuss your options.
- There is no perfect solution. This is an issue that should be raised at a security committee or board meeting. Remember, your reputation is at stake and your decision may create liability issues.
- Identify possible options leading to a sheltered evacuation, i.e., one that minimizes the dangers of an attack on evacuees:
- Is your parking lot a relatively safe area? Could you evacuate there and stand an appropriate distance from your facility? Is there a sheltered path to an adjoining building? Can the local police establish a perimeter to protect the evacuees?
- Develop appropriate protective measures based on your facility’s characteristics. For example, some facility managers have identified areas (e.g., a pool or gym) that are not cluttered and therefore, easy to check for bombs. If the architecture of the building is engineered so that the building would not likely collapse on those inside, one option is to evacuate people to these safe (or more accurately, safer) places (HT to Steve Levy of ISA).
- Communicate, early and often. If you decide not to evacuate, some stakeholders will question your judgement and try to second-guess you. A well-planned sheltered evacuation option is easy to explain and to show that your highest priority is the safety of your stakeholders. Whatever you choose, have pre-written messages ready to go should you become a target.
No one can give you a perfect answer. Identify your options, consult with the best people possible and keep your people safe.