Think about why a person who has actually placed a bomb would call in a threat

Sunday, December 18th, 2022

Within the last couple weeks, Greg Ellifritz notes, dozens of schools have been targeted by hoax bomb and active killer threats:

Think about why a person who has actually placed a bomb would call in a threat. The only reason he would call in the threat is if he DOESN’T want anyone to get hurt. If that’s his goal, he will be as specific and convincing as possible to get people out of the danger zone.

All of these non-specific “there’s a bomb in the building” threats are hoaxes. A legit bomb threat will sound something like: “I placed a bomb in the first floor janitor’s closet. It’s set to go off in 10 minutes or whenever the closet door is opened. Get everyone out of the building in the next 10 minutes or people will die.”

Do you see the difference between the two communications strategies?

It actually places MORE people in danger when you evacuate for every non-specific bomb threat. Is it easier to place a large explosive device inside a public building or leave it in a car in the parking lot where everyone is evacuating to?


  1. Ezra says:

    The enjoyment of having power over people. A person in very low esteem who suddenly is able to make everybody in the world jump to his tune and when he wants them to jump they have to jump

  2. W2 says:

    Call in a non-specific bomb threat, see where the evacuees assemble. Ideally you’ll spot your preferred targets in the crowd. Weeks later, place bombs in that area, call in another threat, and blow up the evacuees. For extra credit, have another, larger bomb go off a little later, to take out anyone rendering aid.

    This is one reason I don’t assemble with the others when we evacuate. I’ll call the boss from the coffee shop, let him know I’m safe.

  3. Peter says:

    Ezra, I’m not sure if you’re referring to the person who calls in the threat or the people on the other end who as a matter of policy will overreact to every threat no matter how minor. They both seem to share in the enjoyment of making people jump.

  4. Paul from Canada says:

    The other factor is the risk assessment matrix. In aviation and other risk heavy systems, a risk assessment matrix basically boils down to a graph of consequences vs. frequency. How often is something likely to happen vs. the consequences.

    Something that is likely to happen frequently (say, once a quarter), but only results in a small financial loss with no potential for death or injury can be ignored or back-burner-ed. On the other hand, a highly unlikely problem that is only likely to happen once in 10 years, but would result in mass casualties needs to be dealt with or the risk mitigated.

    In my company, we have a bomb threat response plan in our emergency procedures, and it varies depending on if the threat is specific, or non-specific, and we have a matrix for deciding, specifically because of the factors brought up in the article.

    The problem with bomb threats is that 99.999% of them are hoaxes, and we, and the responding authorities know it. The risk of a bomb threat being real is extremely low, to the point where you could ALMOST ignore it.

    Unfortunately, the frequency/consequences curve kicks in, and NOT reacting to the one time the threat is real, will end up with death and maiming, so you HAVE to react to every threat.

    The issues the author brings up are real, but there is no perfect response, and there will always be trade-offs. A non-specific threat could still be real, so the authorities are in a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t situation.

    If you don’t evacuate for every non specific threat, which is likely to be a hoax, you risk that it is not the one time it will be real and take casualties, or evacuate and risk the more sophisticated tactic Mr. Ellifritz outlines.

    Also, mitigating the threat he outlines is very difficult. How do you evacuate a school full of young children, and account for them all, and keep them supervised WITHOUT having a simple evacuation plan with muster points? Best I can come up with is to spread the risk by having several, and increasing the distance between them as much as possible.

  5. Paul from Canada says:

    On the subject of specific threats, as the author said, they are often given because the bomber doesn’t necessarily want casualties, just the publicity and political messaging. The IRA are a good example of this. I read somewhere that they even had agreed upon code-words so that the authorities would know it was them, and a real threat.

    On the other hand, sometimes they would just plant one and let it go off without a warning, and sometimes the warning was too late or not specific enough. I suspect that internal politics were factors. Likely “public relations” played a factor as well, such as the bad reaction they got when they bombed British ceremonial cavalry, and people were upset about the horses being killed and maimed.

  6. Paul from Canada says:

    I should also point out that almost all of the time, specific threats are ALSO hoaxes. Most real terrorist bombers just leave bomb in a crowded place and DON’T call in a threat, just let it go off and cause the casualties.

  7. Altitude Zero says:

    I remember when I was in school in the 70′s, we had a bomb threat every other week or so. And of course, there we a lot of actual bombs going off in the 1970′s, so they had to be taken seriously. It was a pain in the ass for the teachers and admins, but it wasn’t the end of the world.

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