Around the country, it seemed the headlines were the same: Bomb threats strike school systems and postsecondary institutions in California. In New York. In Massachusetts. In New Jersey.
At the University of Central Florida, Department of Security and Emergency Management staff knew that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) provided the “go to” site for information on handling bomb threats, so the university immediately turned there to look for video training on how to handle a bomb threat call. Surprisingly, the extensive DHS resources lacked a video component. So UCF partnered with the DHS Office of Bombing Prevention to make one for everyone’s use.
And now, it’s become the standard not only for the university, but also for DHS, the International Association of Chiefs of Police and numerous other institutions of higher education around the country.
Jeff Morgan, the department’s director, says UCF worked with the Office for Bombing Prevention, part of the National Protection and Programs Directorate’s Office of Infrastructure Protection, to ensure that the script stayed on message and the resulting video would be useful to not only colleges and universities, but also to any type of organization ranging from a hospital to a “mom and pop” store, from an elementary school to a bank. The result, “What You Can Do When There Is a Bomb Threat,” can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pg7yVTBciWg, as well on the DHS What To Do When There Is a Bomb Threat resource page (https://www.dhs.gov/what-to-do-bomb-threat) and on the websites of a number of other universities and police departments across the country.
“In the past couple of years, there has been a rash of automated bomb threats to not only schools and universities, but also to airports, hospitals and large organizations,” says Morgan. “Universities are required to notify the campus community within minutes of receiving a potential threat. Because UCF is the second largest university in the country with more than 60,000 students, we’re just as vulnerable to these threats as any other organization.”
That realization led to revamping the UCF policy on how to deal with a bomb threat, and Morgan says he understood that most people didn’t know how to handle a bomb threat phone call.
“Let’s face it, we now live in a visual world and it’s a preferred method of learning,” says UCF Police Chief Richard Beary, who was serving as IACP president at the time of the video’s production. “By creating the video, we’ve provided a new resource for the DHS tool kit. At the same time, IACP also realized the need and helped with promotion.
“The beauty of it is how well it applies to a vast realm of organizations that could receive bomb threats. Our main focus was to fill a void, and we’ve heard from other departments around the country how useful they find it as a resource,” he adds.
In four minutes, 12 seconds, “What You Can Do When There Is a Bomb Threat” uses a generic workplace scenario to walk viewers through the steps listed on the DHS Bomb Threat Checklist (https://www.dhs.gov/sites/defadult/files/publications/dhs-bomb-threat-checklist-2014-508.pdf), and suggests keeping printed copies on hand for use should a bomb threat call come in. Tips include attracting a co-worker’s attention to initiate 911 contact, listening for clues in the caller’s voice and in background noise, and leaving the line open after the call ends. On the DHS website, it joins such resources as the checklist, a brochure that provides guidance on pre-threat preparation, evacuation and shelter-in-place considerations, and more.
Once the university completed production of “What You Can Do When There Is a Bomb Threat,” in addition to promotion through DHS and IACP, the Department of Security and Emergency Management pushed it out to emergency managers from every university in the country via a listserv and to the UCF community via the university website.
“We wanted to make something that could be used anywhere in the country. If you just look through the news headlines, bomb threats are happening all the time at universities and schools,” Morgan says. “The video promotes a message on how you should train so that if something happens, you can provide law enforcement with the information they need to do their job. And of course we want you to do it safely and minimize the threat as well. We hope others will post the video on their websites and utilize this as a standard training tool for their organization.”