Problems of Evacuation
The most common practice is to evacuate the building upon receipt of a bomb threat call. At first thought, this might appear to be the thing to do. After all, there is the possibility that an explosive or incendiary device might be in the building. However, consider the chances of personal injury that could result where a hasty evacuation is attempted and panic ensues.
Panic is one of the most contagious of all human emotions. Panic is defined as a "sudden, excessive, unreasoning, infectious terror caused by fear of the known or the unknown." Panic can also be defined in the context of a bomb threat call as the ultimate achievement of the caller. Once a state of panic has been reached, potential for personal injury and property damage is dramatically increased. Some authorities feel that hasty evacuation can endanger more lives through panic than an explosive detonating.
In evacuating any building, we are routing personnel through the most public areas of the facility, its corridors and stairwells. And these are the places that are most likely to contain an explosive or incendiary device. By evacuating immediately, we might be exposing personnel to a greater danger. The movement of any large mass of people under emergency conditions is a hazardous undertaking unless absolute control is maintained.
The decision to evacuate or not to evacuate is an administrative decision and there will be no time to have a committee meeting to make such a decision without first evaluating all the information available at that time.
Some of the factors that should be considered are:
- The caller: What did he say? Was it a child's voice with other small children snickering in the background or did the caller sound serious in his threats?
- Has this been a recurring thing?
- Are employees or students excused from work or class when such threats are experienced?
- Is it possible that this call was precipitated by news reports of other calls?
- Will immediate evacuation of the premises expose personnel to greater danger?
- What is the size of the building and how many people are involved?
Consider priority and routes of evacuation in the event a bomb is found in the building. This will depend on the type of building and location of personnel in relation to the area where the bomb is located. In multistory buildings, personnel on floors above the danger area should be evacuated first. This can be done simultaneously with the evacuation of lower levels.
If evacuation is effected an assembly area must be established for persons evacuated. This area should be at a distance far enough away from the event of an explosion. The minimum distance is 300 feet.
The MTSU Police Department will control entry into a building during a bomb search. This may be accomplished concurrently by building staff and the police.
If the building is evacuated it is recommended that all gas and fuel lines should be shut off at the main switch or valve. There is some diversity of opinion as to whether electric power should be shut off. To leave it on increases the possibility of electrical fires.
To shut it off leaves the building in darkness and may tend to hamper the search team. The decision to shut off utility services to a building during a search when no device has been found will be made by the university administration. If a device or suspicious object has been located this decision will be made by the bomb disposal personnel upon their arrival.