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Alert4U & Emergency Response

Bomb Threats

When informed that their department or building has received a bomb threat, department heads, managers, and supervisors should make sure that the MTSU Police Department has been notified. If they haven’t been notified, contact MTSU Police dispatch at 2424 and provide who received the bomb threat (officers will want to talk with the person who received the original call); the exact time the threat came in; and what department or area was threatened.

Employees receiving a threat over the telephone should note the exact time of the call and the exact words said by the caller. The employee should listen carefully to the details of the threat and try to keep the caller talking in an effort to obtain the answers to the following questions:

  1. When will the bomb explode?
  2. Where is it located?
  3. What does it look like?
  4. What kind of bomb is it?
  5. What will cause it to explode?
  6. Did you place the bomb?
  7. Why?
  8. Where are you calling from?
  9. What is your address?
  10. What is your name?

The employee should write down whether the caller is male or female, what age he or she sounds like, any voice characteristics the caller may have (lisp, stuttering, accents, disguised, etc.), and any background noise heard.

If a display telephone is used, the employee should write down what appears on the digital display.

When the caller hangs up, the employee should call the MTSU Police Department at 2424 and tell the dispatcher that a bomb threat has just been received. The employee should provide all the information received from the caller and the employee’s observations.

The employee should also give the dispatcher his or her name, office location, and telephone extension number. The employee should stay on the phone with the dispatcher until released from the call by the MTSU Police Department.

After the employee has contacted dispatch, the employee should inform the supervisor about the call and that the police have been called and are en route to the location threatened by the bomb. If in the area threatened, employees should remain calm and stay where they are until police arrive at the scene.

If requested to leave the area or building, employees should look around their work areas as they leave. They should look for any suspicious packages or bags. If they see something that does not belong, THEY MUST NOT TOUCH. They should follow the department evacuation procedure and inform police officers outside the building about any suspicious article seen and the exact location.

Employees should follow all instructions given by police or fire personnel. They should not re-enter the building or area until told that they may.

When informed that their department or building has received a bomb threat, department heads, managers, and supervisors should do the following:

  1. Make sure that the MTSU Police Department has been notified. If they haven’t been notified, contact MTSU Police dispatch at 2424 and provide the following information:
    • Who received the bomb threat. (Officers will want to talk with the person who received the original call).
    • The exact time the threat came in.
    • What department or area was threatened.
  2. Have all personnel in their area look around to determine whether they see anything unusual or different such as a box or bag that does not belong in their work area. THEY SHOULD NOT TOUCH ANY ITEM THAT IS NOT IDENTIFIABLE TO THEIR WORK AREA. If they find anything, they should contact MTSU Police dispatch at 2424 immediately and provide the following information:
    • Name and phone extension
    • Location
    • Location of the suspicious item
    • Description of the item (shape, size, color, etc.)
  3. They should secure the area around the item by asking all persons to leave the area or room. No one should be allowed to re-enter until emergency personnel arrive.
  4. Evacuate only if directed by the MTSU President, Provost, Vice President of Student Affairs, Vice President of Finance and Administration, MTSU Police, MTSU Safety Officer, or Murfreesboro Fire Department. Departmental evacuation procedures should be followed. If directed to evacuate, assist police or fire personnel to secure facilities to insure the safety of all staff and students.
  5. Do not pull the fire alarm. Emergency personnel may activate the fire alarm system to assist in evacuation, but only after they evaluate the circumstances and location of the threat.
  6. Provide calm leadership for colleagues. Speak slowly and distinctly when giving instructions. The main consideration is a safe and orderly evacuation of the area or building until it is found to be safe to re-enter.

All authorities are in agreement that the most effective and fastest search of a building can be made by the normal occupants of that building. No community can supply the number of police officers or firemen it would take to make a fast thorough search of a facility of any size such as the academic and public assembly facilities on campus. Even if such manpower were available, they would still not be the best qualified to conduct the search.

Since the terrorist does not label the device with the word “bomb”, what should you look for? What does a bomb look like? No one knows. It can be packaged in as many different ways as the maker’s imagination will allow. Some devices may be the size of a cigarette package, while others may be as large as a 2-ton truck.

Since the object of the search can vary in size and shape, it is a fundamental rule that search must be made by persons who are familiar with the area in order to notice a strange or foreign object. However, the use of personnel who occupy the premises to conduct the search may present problems with the hysteria that can result from the threat unless there has been careful planning beforehand. In designating or assigning personnel to an area to be searched, there should be no reluctance to assign females, if they are the ones most familiar with the area. Women are as qualified to carry out this function as are men.

If the facility has a public address system, personnel can be alerted to commence the search by use of a code signal, e.g. “Mr. Franklin, Please come to the office”.

In devising a search plan the building or premises to be searched should be divided into areas and each person assigned a room or area. Personnel so assigned should make a survey of the area and note what objects normally occupy the area. Grill covers over heating and air-conditioning ducts should be inspected so that a subsequent inspection would reveal any entry or tampering.

In some instances the detonation or ignition of any explosive or incendiary might depend on a change in environment, e.g. temperature variations or the presence of an electric current. Therefore, the personnel assigned to conduct the search should be cautioned not to cause, or at least minimize any change in the environment. Do not go into a dark room and turn on the lights or change the setting of the thermostats in the room.

Additional Search Techniques

  1. A staff member or supervisor should be designated as floor or area warden for each floor of the building, or perhaps several area wardens for single story buildings. Wardens should be responsible for directing the search of their areas, receiving information from search personnel, and relaying it to the command post.
  2. Alert the nearest medical facility to standby during the search. This provides immediate medical attention in the event of accidental or premature detonation.
  3. Alert the Murfreesboro Fire Department to standby in the event a detonation occurs.
  4. An effective search technique is as follows:
    • Maintenance and custodial personnel search such areas as hallways, rest rooms, stairwells, elevator shafts, utility closets, and areas outside the building.
    • Office personnel search their immediate areas.
    • As the search of each area is completed and no suspicious objects found, a report is given to the incident commander.

Buildings & Structures

  • Elevator wells and shafts.
  • Nooks
  • Closets
  • Storage rooms
  • False Panels
  • Walk areas
  • Counterweights
  • Motors
  • Cables
  • Trash in shafts
  • All ceiling areas
  • Restrooms
  • Access doors
  • Crawl space in rest rooms and areas used as access to plumbing fixtures
  • Electric fixtures
  • Utility and other closet area
  • Space under stairwell
  • Boiler(furnace) rooms
  • Flammable storage areas
  • Main switches and valves
  • Indoor trash receptacles
  • Storage areas, including record-storage areas
  • Mail rooms
  • Ceiling lights with easily removable panels
  • Fire hose racks
  • Basements
  • Around windows hidden by drapes or shades
  • Inside desks
  • Inside storage cabinets and containers
  • Under tables

Auditoriums & Theaters

Searches must be conducted under each seat, into cut seat cushions, as well as the following:

  • Stage area
  • Microphones
  • Speaker platform
  • Crawl ways
  • Tunnels
  • Trapdoors
  • Dressing rooms
  • Restrooms
  • Storage areas
  • Ceilings
  • Props
  • Hanging decorations
  • Lighting fixtures
  • Sound system
  • Air-conditioning system
  • Roof
  • Heating system
  • Projection booths

Academic Buildings

Bombings in academic buildings are usually directed against non-student areas.

  • Lockers
  • Mechanical rooms
  • Utility closets
  • Offices
  • Chemistry labs
  • Auditoriums
  • Cafeterias, lounges, or break areas

Outside Areas

  • Street drainage systems
  • Manholes in street and sidewalk
  • Trash receptacles
  • Garbage cans
  • Dumpsters
  • Mailboxes
  • Parked cars, trucks, and carts
  • Storage areas
  • Offices

NOTE: It is imperative that personnel involved in the search be instructed that their mission is only to search for and report suspicious objects. NOT to move, jar or touch the objects or anything attached thereto. The removal/disarming of a bomb must be left to professional Bomb Technicians.

  1. The location and a description of the object as can best be provided, should be reported to the command post. This information is relayed immediately to the incident commander.
  2. To minimize damage sandbags or mattresses, but not metal plates or objects, may be placed around the object. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO COVER THE OBJECT.
  3. The danger area should be identified, and blocked off with a clear zone of at least 300 feet, including areas below and above the object.
  4. Check to see that all doors and windows are open to minimize primary damage from blast and secondary damage from fragmentation.
  5. Evacuate the building.
  6. Do not permit re-entry into the building until the device has been removed/disarmed, and the building declared safe for re-entry.

The most common practice is to evacuate the building upon receipt of a bomb threat call. At first thought, this might appear to be the thing to do. After all, there is the possibility that an explosive or incendiary device might be in the building. However, consider the chances of personal injury that could result where a hasty evacuation is attempted and panic ensues.

Panic is one of the most contagious of all human emotions. Panic is defined as a “sudden, excessive, unreasoning, infectious terror caused by fear of the known or the unknown.” Panic can also be defined in the context of a bomb threat call as the ultimate achievement of the caller. Once a state of panic has been reached, potential for personal injury and property damage is dramatically increased. Some authorities feel that hasty evacuation can endanger more lives through panic than an explosive detonating.

In evacuating any building, we are routing personnel through the most public areas of the facility, its corridors and stairwells. And these are the places that are most likely to contain an explosive or incendiary device. By evacuating immediately, we might be exposing personnel to a greater danger. The movement of any large mass of people under emergency conditions is a hazardous undertaking unless absolute control is maintained.

The decision to evacuate or not to evacuate is an administrative decision and there will be no time to have a committee meeting to make such a decision without first evaluating all the information available at that time.

Some of the factors that should be considered are:

  1. The caller: What did he say? Was it a child’s voice with other small children snickering in the background or did the caller sound serious in his threats?
  2. Has this been a recurring thing?
  3. Are employees or students excused from work or class when such threats are experienced?
  4. Is it possible that this call was precipitated by news reports of other calls?
  5. Will immediate evacuation of the premises expose personnel to greater danger?
  6. What is the size of the building and how many people are involved?

Consider priority and routes of evacuation in the event a bomb is found in the building. This will depend on the type of building and location of personnel in relation to the area where the bomb is located. In multistory buildings, personnel on floors above the danger area should be evacuated first. This can be done simultaneously with the evacuation of lower levels.

If evacuation is effected an assembly area must be established for persons evacuated. This area should be at a distance far enough away from the event of an explosion. The minimum distance is 300 feet.

The MTSU Police Department will control entry into a building during a bomb search. This may be accomplished concurrently by building staff and the police.

If the building is evacuated it is recommended that all gas and fuel lines should be shut off at the main switch or valve. There is some diversity of opinion as to whether electric power should be shut off. To leave it on increases the possibility of electrical fires.

To shut it off leaves the building in darkness and may tend to hamper the search team. The decision to shut off utility services to a building during a search when no device has been found will be made by the university administration. If a device or suspicious object has been located this decision will be made by the bomb disposal personnel upon their arrival.

Contact MTSU