Superintendents, principals, and their first responders can improve management of school bomb threats by taking action to avoid three common problems we find when assessing school emergency guidelines and actual incidences of bomb threats at schools:
- No written procedure or one developed without input from first responders. Preparing for bomb threats requires more than simply having a bomb threat checklist at the school secretary’s desk. Written guidelines should be developed by school officials and their public safety community partner agencies that would respond to an actual bomb threat incident.
- Automatic evacuation – a step that could be one of the most dangerous decisions a school leader can make. Schools must have a comprehensive threat assessment procedure in place so this decision can be made in a competent and cognitive manner. Facts may warrant an evacuation, but having a standard procedure of automatic evacuation without threat assessment is contrary to best practices in the law enforcement and school safety fields.
- Failure to train ALL staff on the procedure and then failing to retrain them periodically. This training must also include school district central office executives, who too often are not familiar with district and building written emergency guidelines. Don’t forget to include support staff (food services, transportation, custodial and maintenance, office support staff, etc.), as well.
Superintendents and principals must also have clear, formally prepared crisis communications in place to address the fear and anxiety some students, staff, and parents will have when bomb threats disrupt school operations. This is particularly important given that a growing number of bomb (and other) threats are now being delivered to schools via social media, through international proxy servers, and by other digital communications.
Bomb threats present many challenges for school administrators. But school leaders can reduce and better manage these challenges with well-thought-out best practices for assessing and responding in a cognitive, not emotional, manner.
School Security Consultant
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