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Learn more... Crisis Response items

  School Evacuations


“Hello. I just called to tell you there is a bomb in the school.”


“Hello. I just called to tell you there is a bomb in the school.”

At first the secretary cannot believe what she just heard. The muffled voice on the phone repeats the warning as the secretary frantically motions for the Principal’s attention. Searching for the right words, she says, “OK. I will tell the Principal. Is there anything else?” But the only response is a click as the caller hangs up.


By this time, the Principal has seen the panic in the secretary’s face and has rushed to her desk. “He said there is a bomb in the school!” she blurts out. The Principal comforts her and tries to assure her it was just a prank. Then the Principal began to realize that it could be serious and she did not want any of her students hurt. The Principal had the secretary call the police as she got on the intercom and announce that the school should evacuate as if it were a fire drill. In just a few minutes, the school is empty. Children are outside on a cold, windy day. The police find nothing.


This is the fifth time this month.

Does this scenario sound familiar. If it has not happened at your school, it probably has happened at a school very near. In a recent search of news media, it was discovered that nation wide about 20 schools per week evacuate their buildings. Some of these are for suspected contamination or fire alarms; however, the vast majority of them are for anonymous bomb threats. In Rocky Mount, North Carolina two middle schools were evacuated two times in a single day due to bomb threats. Many schools have been evacuated multiple times this school year. Here are some samples from a week in January 2005:

  • Seattle, WA - A high school was evacuated and dismissed for the day at 10:50 after staff members found a note.

  • Billings, MT - An elementary school was evacuated after a note was discovered. Students reported being scared and cold.

  • Detroit, MI - A high school was evacuated after a phoned in bomb threat.

  • Vineland, NJ - A high school was evacuated after a phoned in bomb threat.

Fortunately, there have been no injuries due to bombs. The only injuries have been minor and resulted from the evacuation, not the bomb. Unfortunately, hundreds or thousands of school days are lost annually because of these bomb threat hoaxes.

How should a school respond to a bomb threat?

Most say to “err on the side of safety.” But is evacuation the safest response? Statistics show that;

  • most bomb threats have no bomb,

  • most bombs will not work as planned,

  • most bombs that do explode injure the bomb maker.

Simply ignoring the bomb threat is not wise.

However, statistics offer little comfort if your school blows up and the  students are still inside. Simply ignoring the bomb threat is not wise. A  measured response based on logic and an established pattern is the  better approach.


The FBI and ATF have bomb threat report sheets that can be placed by  every telephone in the school. These handy tools will help school officials  make sound choices based on the indicated credibility of the threat. They also serve as an investigative tool to locate the person responsible so that they may answer for their actions.

Another simple means of thwarting bomb threats is Caller ID installed on the phone system. It is amazing how many times a bomb threat or other hoax is called in from a pay phone in the school. There are other steps that can be taken, such as a passive search, but the most effective has been to stop the evacuation. One school lost 9 training days in a school year to bomb threat evacuations. After taking some of these proactive steps and stopping the evacuations, the following year had no bomb threats.

To learn more, visit the Keys to Safer web site, email or call.

Contact one of the professionals at Keys to discuss how your school can move from "playing the odds" to having a comprehensive, fully integrated, pro-active Contingency Plan.

Crisis Response Items

Reported By:
Frank G. Green
Keys To Safer Schools

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