Bomb threats are part of being involved in a highly visible industry like hotels. The bomb threat may be fake or real. When a hotel faced with a bomb threat, the primary concern must always be the safety of the guests and staffs. It is required to have a bomb threat response policy to ensure the maximum margin of safety. In the event of a bomb threat, if evacuation is initiated, the exit routes and assembly areas should be searched prior to vacating the premises. All hotel guests and staff should not be allowed to re-occupy the building and resume normal activities until a search has been conducted. All hotels should prepare an emergency or incident plan with logical and chronological steps to handle these situations. It is extremely important that the procedures established for handling a bomb threat are understood and followed.
When a bomb threat has been received the Security Department or Police must be immediately notified. The police are the experts and must be involved in any decisions or actions taken.
Bomb threats are often transmitted by phone. The person receiving the call should be prepared to obtain precise information, including:
- Be calm, courteous, listen, and do not interrupt the caller.
- The time the call was received and on which telephone number or extension.
- Callers telephone number. (If the hotel is having an operator board which displays the callers telephone number).
- The exact words of the person making the threat.
- Listen for the presence of any background noises such as loud music, vehicles, airplanes, party etc or other voices indicate if the voice is familiar.
- Try to identify the gender (male or female) and approximate age of the caller from the voice.
- Note for any particular accent or familiar voice
- Characteristics of the caller’s voice: accent, loud, quiet, intoxicated, deep voice, high pitched or raspy voice.
- Patterns of speech: fast, slow, stuttering, clear and distinct.
- Apparent attitude of the caller: laughing, crying, angry, coherent, calm, or self righteous.
The person receiving the threatening call should be prepared to ask the caller certain questions if the information has not been volunteered. If possible find out the following from the caller:
- Location of the bomb.
- The time by which the bomb is due to explode.
- The description of the device.
- Motive of the caller.
- Type of bomb.
- Place located.
- Identity of the caller.
In most of the cases the caller will not give all the above details but try to collect as much as details which will be helpful for searching, evacuation and investigation. The employee receiving the call should notify their manager immediately a bomb threat checklist report should be kept near your phone to assist you in recording this information.
- Call up urgent meeting with all HOD’s on the designated area to start the emergency response plan.
- Notify the Police or other officials responsible for handling Bomb threats.
- Notification to police should be prompt, and include as much detail as possible. The person who received the threatening call should be available immediately for police interviewing.
- Assist the Police with directions and layout of your hotel to initiate the search.
- Initiate the search procedure on direction of police
- The evacuation of the hotel can be similar to the fire evacuation procedure.
Police cannot conduct a proper search of your premises. Co-ordination of employee’s response is essential. Management staff and volunteer personnel will be designated responsibility for searching a specific area including washrooms and meeting zooms, etc. The Emergency Response Room (General Managers Office) will be specified as the control centre. A printed floor plan should be available to assist the search coordinator. As each area is searched, it must be reported to the designated Emergency Response Room and crossed off the floor plan. Senior Management in the designated Emergency Response Room will then determine if the search has been completed. Areas that are accessible to the public require special attention during a search, and may be vitally important if an evacuation is to be conducted. During the search procedure the question often arises, “What am I looking for?” The basic rule is look for something that does not belong, or is out of the ordinary, or out of place. Conduct the search quickly, yet thoroughly, keeping the search time to a maximum of 15 to 20 minutes. Both the interior and exterior of the building should be searched. If an unidentified or suspicious object is found, Do Not Touch It. Guideline for searching include
- Search your immediate area.
- Don’t touch anything – Report any suspect object.
- You can be of help by identifying strange or misplaced objects.
- Unlock drawers, cabinets etc. for search crew.
When an unidentified object or package is found, the finder must not attempt to move or handle it. Notify the designated Emergency Response Room and give the following information.
- Location of the object.
- Reason why they consider it as a suspicious object.
- Description of the object.
- Any other useful information about the object.
- Remove persons at risk.
- Establish access control of the area and ensure no one approaches or attempts to move the object.
- Endeavor to establish ownership of the object. There are been issues like legitimate property has been left behind in error by innocent persons prior to the bomb threat being received.
- Continue the search procedure, until all areas have reported to the designated emergency response room as there will be more than one unidentified objects.
- If an unidentified object is found, a quiet and systematic evacuation from the area should be initiated.
Evacuation should be done as per the instructions from senior management or police. If an unidentified object is found, a quiet and systematic evacuation from the area should be initiated.
- Evacuation Routes and Assembly Areas must be searched, stairwells, corridors, elevators, and doorways. These areas should be searched first, and when completed personnel should be assigned to direct other employees along the searched exit routes.
- Evacuation to a minimum distance of 300 feet in all directions, including the area above and below the unidentified object, should be carried out.
- Elevators should not be used to evacuate people under normal circumstances.
- Direct people to quietly and safely leave the premises, using tact and power of suggestion in an effort to maintain control and avoid panic. Once an evacuation has taken place, managers or designate will ensure the building is evacuated and all personnel are accounted for. This may be a difficult task, but it is necessary to ensure the safety of all personnel.
Re-Occupation of Building
Re-occupation of the building is a decision that must be made by senior management in consultation with the police. If the evacuation was made without a search, the premises should be searched before re-occupying the facility.
Precautions in case of bomb threat
- Remain Calm
- Do Not use cell phones or radios
- Do not turn on or off lights or other electrical or mechanical devices.
- Take your time and be thorough.
- Any time a search is conducted; it must be done discretely and quietly, but must be thorough.
- Any suspicious packages must not be disturbed.
- If a suspicious package is found, inform the police and let them check it. In the meantime quickly evacuate the area around the package.