Bomb threat procedures reissued

A joint initiative between University Police and the telecommunications section of Information Technologies is republicizing procedures to follow on receipt of a telephoned bomb threat.

The procedures, which are also appropriate for the receipt of a malicious call, explain how to activate a “malicious-call trace.” The function, which is activated by the pressing of a button on the call-receiver’s telephone, notifies University Police of the call and initiates a trace of the caller. People receiving telephoned bomb threats are asked to complete a checklist designed to provide the police with information on both the nature of the threat and the identity of the caller.

The decision to repromote the procedures was made when it became apparent during a building supervisors’ training program in June that many university employees were unaware the procedures existed, said Pat Johnson, chief for University Police. Johnson said the increased fear of terrorism, engendered by last September’s terrorist attacks, had also been a factor in the decision.

“It has been around for a while but it hasn’t been publicized that well,” said Johnson. “Since 9/11 there’s been a big push to make sure everyone is trained in the process.”

The bomb-threat checklist includes tick-lists of voice types and background noises and requests the user to speculate on the age and race of the caller which Johnson conceded, would not always be apparent. The checklist also contains nine questions to attempt to ask the caller to obtain information about the threat. The final two questions ask for the name and address of the person giving the warning. Johnson said he obviously did not expect to obtain serious answers to these questions, but the information given could be matched up with information received from other threats.

“They may not give an accurate (answer), but you may over a period of time see a pattern.” Johnson said.

Johnson said he was optimistic that use of the bomb-threat checklist, which was designed by University Police, would assist campus staff and students in obtaining important information in a stressful situation. Much of the checklist can be used for malicious calls, also.

The checklist has been used successfully in the past, probably, according to Johnson, as recently as the threats received following tenured USF professor Sami Al-Arian’s infamous appearance on The O’Reilly Factor in September.

“The bomb-threat checklist has been on campus for many years,” said Johnson. “We realize that if we proactively push this, in the future it will be ingrained that (people) will look for these things.”

The malicious-call trace function is provided to the university free of charge. On multi-line telephones, pressing the MCT-ACT button activates the trace. The facility is not available on single-line telephones but can be used if the call is transferred to a multi-line telephone. Upon activation, University Police are notified of the call, and a trace is initiated. Users are instructed to call University Police when the call has completed for further instructions.

Faculty and staff will be the main focus of the training initiative, but some instruction will be given to students.

“We’re trying to hit employees. When we do crime prevention in residential areas, we talk to students about it,” said Johnson.