Bomb Threat Guidelines and Policy for Schools and Churches
The rising cases of bombings and other violent attacks in public places have generated great concerns in Nigeria. No week passes without one reported case of bomb blast or the other. It is either an explosion in the Church killing and maiming worshippers and destroying the house of God or a suicide bomber is creating havoc on the street or one public figure is assassinated in his resident or ambushed or trailed and murdered on the way. Increasing numbers of bomb threats incidents is also becoming problematic. The concern expressed by Christians and parents and guardians about their safety and that of their children and wards at a seminar recently necessitated this write up. In the case of either bomb threat or actual envisioned bombing, Church/School leaders are expected to assist in the following areas:
a. Avoid panic and maintain calm.
b. Search for a possible bomb on the School/Church premises after receiving a bomb threat.
c. Coordinate and manage the threat notice.
d. Communicate the threat to police as soon as possible.
As part of preventive mechanism, leaders of Schools and Churches and other public places should be required by law to have a Bomb Threat Policy and be mandated by regulation to present and defend same in cases of actual bombing of the facility.
Government should be more interested in how the bomb threat was handled (if any) and how the real bombing was managed and not only in rendering of assistance and payment of compensations.
The following bomb threat policy and guidelines is presented for your guidance and adaptation to suite your circumstances.
1. Written Bomb Threat Policy: The first step towards preventing and managing bomb threat and reducing losses resulting from real bombing is to put in place a realistic Bomb Threat Policy. This policy and procedure should be written and read in conjunction with the School/Church Security and Safety Policies and Procedures.
“Should a Church have a Bomb Threat Policy?” I have been asked several times. My answer has always being, YES. Every Church/School should, as a matter of policy, have, in addition, a working Security and Safety Policy and Procedure, and a Professionally Designed Bomb Threat Checklist.
The Bible is full of instructions on security and safety and also warned us not to be ignorant of the devices of the devil. There were well defined protective procedures for meeting with Jesus that was perfectly adhered to by His disciples while He was on earth. Security threats have always existed and countermeasures must be upgraded regularly to check possible security breach.
The receipt of threat or actual setting of explosive or other potential dangerous devices spells impending hazards in all premises. The consequences of an incident within a School or Church could be very destructive as we have experienced of recent. The aim of School/Church leaders at all times must be to ensure that effective procedures are in place and are clearly understood to ensure, as far as it is reasonably practical, the safety of students/worshippers and the general public.
All members of leadership within either the School or Church have a legal responsibility to observe the Bomb Threat Policy and Procedures at all times. It is imperative that all staff and church workers understand what to do and how to do it in the event of a bomb threat to ensure the safety of their brethren, colleagues, students, the general public and themselves.
2. Chief Response Officer: The Head of the School or Church has the overall responsibility for managing all bomb threat situations throughout the School or Church. To assist the Chief Response Officer, the responsibility for the supervision of the day-to-day precautions and the coordination of workers’ action in a bomb threat emergency should be delegated to Heads of Departments or in his/her absence, a Nominated Deputy.
3. Head of Department/Nominated Deputy The role of the Head of Department or Nominated Deputy within the School or Church should be properly defined which include:
a. Implementation of the procedures and precautions when dealing with bomb threats.
b. Ensuring that all School staff or Church workers receive the necessary training and clearly understand the procedures for bomb threats.
c. Coordinating and directing students or worshippers and workers and the general public in the event of a bomb threat.
d. Reporting all bomb threat incidents to the Chief Response Officer (CRO) and Police.
e. Completing the Bomb Threat Checklist and forward same to the Church/School Chief security officer.
4. Workers Security is everybody’s responsibility and counterterrorism is a step towards protecting oneself and others from terrorists’ attack. Therefore workers, either in the School or Church, need basic knowledge of the devices of the terrorists and how to respond in the event of threat or actual attack. In this context, workers own it a duty to among other things:
a. Know what to do in the event of a bomb threat and take appropriate actions.
b. Know what to do if a suspicious package is discovered and take appropriate actions.
c. Participate in bomb alert training and evacuation procedures.
d. Be familiar with what to do in the event of actual attack to minimize losses to both human and material resources.
e. Never compromise the security of the School or Church in any way (leaving doors and windows open and insecure and freely accessible, allowing unrestricted movements into and from the premises).
Apart from being conversant with the above general points, School/Church workers must be exposed to the necessary skills and techniques of the following specifics. They must be trained to:
a. Know what bomb threat and bomb attack really entails.
b. Understand the gravity of impact of a possible bomb threat or attack and then appreciate the importance of well defined and properly packed preventive actions.
c. Maintain tidy surroundings, look out for the unusual in the environment always and report suspicious persons seen around the School or Church vicinity to the Chief Response Officer (CRO) and the Police.
d. Display vigilance and carryout periodic inspection and review of the premises as this enforces protection and acts as deterrent.
e. Always watch out for strange and strategically parked car, lorry, motorcycle, bicycle, etc. and report same as soon as possible to the Chief Response Officer and the Police.
f. Carryout simple search and evacuation procedures. Do not be afraid of search. The best qualified people to conduct a thorough search in any given area are the occupants. They have a good knowledge of what belongs or not in a location at any given time. The Police generally do not have such knowledge of the threat area and would be less likely to recognize something that is suspicious or out of place. Police will definitely assist in the search. Therefore, if a suspicious object is found, call in Police Bomb Technicians to deal with the device.
Deliberate threats to public safety are becoming a high priority issue in Nigeria. Boko Haram is extending their tentacles. They have put the Churches in the northern part of the country under siege, panic and fear. The next victim may be the School and other public places. And schools are particularly vulnerable to bomb threats, which are easy to make and difficult to assess in terms of whether they are hoax or real. Actual bombing have done devastating damages in the Church already apart from causing maximum disruption. Proper planning and the nomination of appropriate authority to take charge of a bomb threat incident in a School/Church can minimize the danger and disruption caused.
The appointed Coordinator (and Deputy) should be Response for assessing the bomb threat and controlling all search and evacuation activities and establishing a good communication centre.
Caution is in place here. Adaptation is the key word. As Richard D. Sem, Former President, International Security Management Association said, “Security is more art than science. Few formulas will cover all organizations, situations and needs, and that’s the beauty and challenge of our profession. Modern Schools and Churches must be organized and equipped to respond to virtually every types of conceivable security threats.