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Bomb Threats

Bomb threats and other threats of violence are serious emergencies that required prompt attention. Although bomb threats are rare, they are most likely to occur during final exams. The following sections offer guidance for handling bomb threats.

How to Handle a Threatening Phone Call

If you receive a bomb threat over the phone, remain calm and act courteous. If feasible, notify another person to listen on another extension. Take notes on the caller's threat, tone, voice characteristics, and background noise. If the caller seems talkative, ask questions such as the following:

  • When will the bomb go off?
  • How much time remains?
  • Where is the bomb located?
  • What kind of bomb is it?
  • How do you know about this bomb?
  • What is your name?
  • Do you know there are people in the building who could be hurt or killed?

If you receive a threatening phone call, remain calm and take notes. Try to find out as much as possible about the caller and threat.

The following Bomb Threat Information form is an example of sounds to note while the caller is on the phone.

UPD Response to Bomb Threats

The UPD regards all bomb threats as serious. After learning of a bomb threat, the UPD notifies the appropriate building official and asks him or her to notify key building personnel. Together, the building personnel and the UPD search the building, including trash cans and restrooms, for anything “suspicious” or “out of the ordinary.” After interviewing the person who received the bomb threat, the UPD determines if the threat appears to be a hoax or an actual emergency.

The UPD has the authority to evacuate a building if circumstances warrant this precaution. The building official may evacuate the building at his/her discretion based on the nature of the threat.

Building evacuations may be conducted by sounding the fire alarm. If a fire alarm is used in response to a bomb threat, the UPD will advise the Fire Department.

Handling Suspicious-Looking Items

If you locate a suspicious-looking item, do not handle the item. Clear the area of personnel and notify the UPD immediately. If necessary, the UPD will call San Marcos Fire Department or the Austin Bomb Demolition Squad for assistance.

Bomb Threat Observations

For most bomb threats, the caller announces that a bomb is set to go off at a certain time and then hangs up. Because routine bomb threat evacuations may spawn numerous hoax calls, consider the following:

  • Most intended explosions have no warning. Usually, after the bomb is detonated, a party claims credit and then explains why the bomb was set.
  • In cases where an actual device is located, the caller usually provides specific information for finding the device before the detonation time.
  • With few exceptions, bomb threats on campus are hoaxes designed to avoid or postpone an unpleasant task (e.g., exam).

University policy is to use restraint from evacuating buildings based on the following:

  • A bomb that is set to detonate at a certain time is either a timed explosive device or a site-activated device. Both devices require considerable expertise to develop. Furthermore, a site activated device, such as a radio-controlled mechanism, must be activated in close proximity of the bomb.
  • Unless a bomb contains a large amount of volatile explosive (e.g., C-4 plastic), damage will be limited to the immediate area of the detonation.

May 2011
Revised November 2014