Bomb Threat Procedure

Bombings or threats of bombing are now harsh realities in today's world. While most bomb threats turn out to be hoaxes and most suspicious packages are harmless, it is important that all threats and suspicious objects be treated seriously. Time is of the essence when a bomb threat is received and we must be ready to react quickly and efficiently to minimize the risk of injury to students, staff, faculty and visitors. These guidelines are designed to help the Graduate Center community prepare for the potential threat of explosive-related violence. These guidelines and a Bomb Threat Checklist [PDF] should be kept next to every college telephone.

1. Telephone Threat Response - A calm response to a bomb threat caller could result in obtaining additional information. This is especially true if the caller wishes to avoid injuries or deaths. If told that the building is occupied or cannot be evacuated in time, the bomber may be willing to give more specific information on the bomb's location, components, or method of initiation. When a bomb threat is called in:

  • Keep the caller on the line as long as possible. Do not interrupt except to ask the caller to speak louder, slower or to repeat the message.
  • Record pertinent information on a Bomb Threat Checklist. Do not hang up until the caller hangs up.
  • If the caller does not indicate the location of the bomb or time of possible detonation, ask him/her for this information.
  • Inform the caller that the building is occupied and the detonation of a bomb can result in death or serious injury to many innocent people.
  • Pay particular attention to background noises, such as motors running, music playing, vehicle traffic and any other noise which may give a clue as to the location of the caller.
  • Listen closely to the voice (male or female), the mood of the caller (calm, excited, despondent, etc.), accents or speech impediments.
  • Report the threat to Security & Public Safety at x7777 immediately after the caller hangs up. Security & Public Safety will then implement its bomb threat response procedure.
  • Remain available in the event that law enforcement personnel want to interview you.

2. Written Threat Response - While written threats are usually associated with generalized threats and extortion attempts, a written warning of a specific device may occasionally be received.

  • Save all materials including the envelope.
  • Once the message is recognized as a threat, further unnecessary handling should be avoided in order to maintain evidence.
  • Report the threat to Security & Public Safety at x7777. Security & Public Safety will then implement its bomb threat response procedure.
  • Remain available in the event that law enforcement personnel want to interview you.

3. Letter and Package Bombs - While the likelihood of receiving a bomb through the mail is remote, letter or package bombs represent an alternate delivery method if the motive of the attack is to inflict injury on a specific individual. Bombs can be constructed to look like almost anything and can be placed or delivered in a number of ways. Its appearance is limited only by the imagination of the sender. However, the following characteristics may help you in identifying a suspicious letter or package:

  • Feel & Balance - Letters feel rigid, appear uneven or lopsided or are bulkier than normal. Sponginess or undue pressure can be felt through the package. Contents of the parcel may make a "sloshing" sound.
  • Place of Origin - Check the delivery postmark to see if the place of origin is familiar.
  • Foreign Packages - If the item is from another country ask yourself if it is expected. Look for foreign writing, addresses and postage.
  • Unusual Addressing or Delivery Instructions - There are unusually restrictive endorsements such as "Personal," "Private" and "Confidential" or has no return address.
  • Packaging - Packaging wrapped in string are automatically suspicious, as modern packaging materials have eliminated the need for twine or string.
  • Postage - Excess postage on small packages or letters indicate that the object was not weighed by the Post Office. No postage or non-cancelled postage should also be a warning.
  • Writing - Handwritten notes such as "Fragile," "Rush" or "Prize Enclosed," a foreign style of writing (not normally received), misspelling of common names, places or titles and mail addressed to generic or incorrect titles should be treated with caution.
  • Odor - The mail or package emits the smell of marzipan or almonds or any other peculiar odor.
  • Appearance - Leaks, stains, protruding wires, string, tape or tinfoil are present.
  • Sound - Any package that emits a buzzing, ticking or other unusual noise should be treated with caution.
  • Telephone Calls - Any packages or letters arriving before or after a phone call from an unknown person asking if the item was received is suspect.

4. If a Suspicious Package is Found

  • Under no circumstances should anyone move, jar, touch, tamper or interfere with the object or anything attached to it.
  • Report the location and an accurate description of the object to Security & Public Safety at x7777.
  • Security and Facilities personnel should not use portable radios to report a suspicious object as they can sometimes cause the premature detonation of an explosive device.
  • If possible, open all doors and windows in the area where the object is found to minimize primary damage caused by the blast and secondary damage caused by fragmentation.

5. Bomb Threat Evacuations

  • If it is determined that an evacuation is necessary, bomb threat evacuations at the Graduate Center will follow a procedure similar to the one used for fire evacuations.
  • Take personal belongings such as purses, briefcases, knapsacks and shopping bags with you so they are not confused with suspicious packages by those conducting a bomb search.
  • Know your escape route in advance. Also be prepared to use an alternate exit in case your primary route is obstructed. Pay attention to all alarms and public address system announcements.
  • Follow instructions given by Fire Wardens, Searchers, Security, NYPD and FDNY personnel.
  • Never use an elevator to evacuate unless directed to do so by the Fire Department.
  • Once outside, move well away from the building, especially away from windows.

Bomb Threat Checklist
Click here to download a Bomb Threat Checklist [PDF].