Bomb Threat Plans
November 17, 2004 3:57 AM   Subscribe

My workplace (in the UK) has recently decided that every desk must have a laminated card with "Action To Be Taken In The Event Of A Bomb Threat". This strikes me as somewhat bizarre in that although I work for a communications company there is no infrastructure here to damage (barring remote switch access). Should the fact that these have been posted around the building out of the blue trigger a paranoia alert or is it just the company being a tad silly? Does anyone out there have any experience with this sort of thing?

Moderately Concerned of Yorkshire
posted by longbaugh to Work & Money (22 answers total)
ha! whereabouts? do you have contract work with someone "unpopular"?

i work in a "compound" that's clearly american (not military, but in a foreign country, with (unarmed, afaik) guards, high fence, comparatively rich gringos that look obviously foreign) and we have nothing of the sort. the only thing similar that i know of is that the american hires get forwarded alerts (email) from the usa embassy.

unless you're working for fylingdales or similar, i think you have a paranoid boss. or maybe it's some kind of art installation (does "communications company" mean adland?)
posted by andrew cooke at 4:48 AM on November 17, 2004

I wouldn't give it a second thought. I've been in a business setting where we all got these, not because of a perceived threat, but simply as a wise precaution in case something ever does happen...

If you think about it, you probably have an evacuation plan in case of a fire. Does that mean they think a fire is about to break out? Nope. Simply that if one does, having a plan in place could save lives...
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 4:49 AM on November 17, 2004

or maybe a paranoid boss that's upset someone who's less than stable? fired any loonies recently?
posted by andrew cooke at 4:49 AM on November 17, 2004

i think it's just a case of over planning. we have a similar thing in our office and i didn't give it a second thought.
posted by triv at 4:57 AM on November 17, 2004

It typically takes so long to set something like this in motion that if it actually is grounds for being paranoid, you're probably months too late.

The thing that bothers me about this stuff in general is the whole "stack of laminated cards" approach. They've printed a laminated card and put it at every workspace, so now, everyone should know what to do. Right. As soon as they get finished sifting through the laminated card for their workgroup phone numbers, fire procedure, mailstop codes, power outage procedure, parking schedules, poison gas attack procedure, .... Whew. Isn't this what fire marshalls are for?
posted by lodurr at 5:01 AM on November 17, 2004

I've worked in totally unthreatening places before that have had the procedures in place to deal with bomb threats, and know of lots of places that have actually had bomb threats - very notably without any actual bombing taking place. Lots of places get threatened without anything happening, presumably by dickheads without anything better to do with their time. Your boss has probably just been on a course in preparedness or something.
posted by biffa at 5:04 AM on November 17, 2004

I wouldn't worry about it. Ours aren't laminated, but we get new copies every year with the evacuation procedure in case of fire.
posted by jacquilynne at 5:05 AM on November 17, 2004

Response by poster: Our fire evacuation plan involves a couple of hundred overweight middle-aged women climbing over 7 foot tall iron railings (as we lock the gates to prevent vandalism and theft)...

I am the only person here with any knowledge of nasty stuff like explosives and I haven't been fired.

posted by longbaugh at 6:05 AM on November 17, 2004

Dude, I work in an office in DC, and we were all recently given our "terrorism packages." The kit includes K-rations, a pint of sealed potable water, an emergency aluminum blanket thing, glosticks, air filters, and- I shit you not- anti-radiation pills. Which we're supposed to use in case a nuclear bomb goes off in the Capitol, as opposed to what we'll actually do, which is, you know, vaporize.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 6:16 AM on November 17, 2004

I used to work for a retail company who used to be majorly OTT about bombs (because we sold mahogany *shrug*) but all of our information (literally, all of it) claimed that bombs looked like cigarette boxes with wires coming out of them.

Everywhere else I've worked only just about had fire instructions.
posted by twine42 at 6:19 AM on November 17, 2004

I want my plastic paranoia placard to say "Official Propagator of the Human Species".
posted by substrate at 6:34 AM on November 17, 2004

Every employee in my building just got the 375 page Emergency Response Guidebook - A Guidebook for First Responders during the Initial Phase of a Dangerous Goods/Hazardous Materials Incident. (Warning: Very Large PDF). In the event of an emergency, I'll open the book, cover my head with it, and run.
posted by grateful at 6:52 AM on November 17, 2004

I was working one night when a bomb went off outside the building.

I'm sure we had a plan of action, but common sense kicked in and everybody behaved calmly and correctly. Laminated cards wouldn't have helped much.
posted by Huw at 6:58 AM on November 17, 2004

Welcome to the wonderful world of disclaiming liability.

Don't sweat it mate, it's no big deal. Belt and braces and all that, not to mention fees for the company law firm.

Comms? Cool! Tech or PR?
posted by dmt at 7:04 AM on November 17, 2004

Response by poster: XQUZYPHYR, that sounds like the survival kit Major Kong had in Dr Strangelove.

A guy could have a pretty good night in Dallas with that lot...

dmt - I do a bit of both, you know, standard UK practice. Hire someone for a job and then just add bits to it until you are doing three different jobs for one paycheck.
posted by longbaugh at 7:36 AM on November 17, 2004

This may be an overenthusiastic reaction by your management to workplace safety requirements. I don't know about the UK, but in Canada, many industries are required to have an "emergency preparedness plan", which do cover various "terrorist" acts. These generally only apply to industries that have hazards onsite (like toxins, biomedical waste or radiological stuff). Sure it's an over-reaction, but as decisions from the top go, it sounds pretty harmless. Better than management deciding which side of your desk your pencils should line up on at the end of the day.

On the other hand, it's really easy to disrupt a workplace these days, so some preparedness is called for. All you need is some nutbar mailing envelopes of white powder with "HaHa Anthrax!!!" scrawled on them and you've got to evacuate. Our government gets some every day. One particular office was getting more than a dozen a day---they were all baby powder, if I remember it right. Someone with a grievance just being an asshole, apparently. Our anti-terror people now isolate and scan every piece of incoming mail so that the mail room doesn't have to evacuate every time they get one (as happened at first).
posted by bonehead at 7:37 AM on November 17, 2004

We each have go bags in our cubes, and fire/emergency drills every other month. (right opposite Grand Central/NYC)
posted by amberglow at 9:42 AM on November 17, 2004

We've had bomb threat procedures in place for quite a while (I work at a television network, but then again my mom works at a hospital, and they have bomb-threat procedures as well). I think it's mainly so anyone who happens to answer the phone will have a sense of the kinds of things that Security will need to know. Don't sweat it.

And we got "evacuation kits" this summer -- teeny flashlight, FM radio, space blanket, respirator, mini-first aid kid, etc., all stuffed into a blaze orange fanny pack.
posted by Vidiot at 9:45 AM on November 17, 2004

I shit you not- anti-radiation pills. Which we're supposed to use in case a nuclear bomb goes off in the Capitol, as opposed to what we'll actually do, which is, you know, vaporize.

Those are for a dirty bomb, which is a more realistic threat. When I worked in DC I was thinking of purchasing some.
posted by probablysteve at 10:28 AM on November 17, 2004

the wensleydale liberation front is rumoured to have a supply of uranium for making dirty bombs, which would tie in with the original poster's location.
posted by andrew cooke at 10:33 AM on November 17, 2004

I think we've got one of those things around here somewhere (*rummages*).

I remember having one in the staff area of a retail shop I worked at back around '90. Specifically bomb threat. Don't worry about it.
posted by krisjohn at 6:23 PM on November 17, 2004

Back in the days of yore when bombings were only of the "threat" variety, I worked for a company which manufactured a drug which could be used as a morning-after contraceptive (in the days before such things were prescribable). The pro-lifers were all over this place with angry letter campaigns and the security for packages was tight -- sometimes they actually got fake letter bombs. For the most part it was a lot of hoo-hah over nothing, because nobody was ever actually injured by anything.

Three things about this are ironic. One is that despite the heavy attention paid to packages, a ring using a mailroom employee was able to steal a few dozen Macs over the course of a year by concealing them in "junk" boxes placed on the loading docks.

Two is that the company was led during most of this controversy by one Donald Rumsfeld. One may draw one's own conclusions about what lessons his sleepy tenure in Skokie may have given him for international affairs.

Three is that the company had a small garden with park benches out past the parking garage, which was never used by anyone. I once went out there to take my lunch, and was swiftly accosted by a security guard, who actually pointed his walkie-talkie at me as if it were a gun.
posted by dhartung at 11:23 PM on November 17, 2004

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