Bomb threat. Such a scary phrase, but also one that doesn’t feel quite real. You hear about bomb threats, sure, but it’s not often you are in the middle of one.
A few days ago, one of our receptionists answered a call for a client with multiple locations within the U.S. The caller told our receptionist that he had a bomb set to go off at our client’s location. We take threats extremely seriously at Back Office Betties due to Emily’s experience with violence in an attorney’s office and the increased risk of violence towards attorneys, so our receptionist was quick to take action.
Real-Life Experience with Violence Towards Lawyers
Emily, our Founder and CEO, was made aware of the bomb threat situation and immediately flashed back to her experience in 2005. Around lunchtime on that January 24th, Emily became witness to a murder-suicide in the law firm she worked at. As she heated up her lunch in the second-floor break room, Emily was blissfully unaware of the way her life was about to change. The receptionist came flying up the stairs, the words “Get out!” jumping off her lips. She frantically ushered people towards the exit at the back of the building. They’d had fire drills before, so Emily stood by and waited for her lunch to finish before she would leave. The words “gunman… in the building” interrupted her thoughts. With no frame of reference for this type of situation, time stood still. It felt as if it took several minutes for these words to sink in. Once they did, Emily passed her cubicle, grabbed her purse, and joined her coworkers down the back stairwell.
The group watched as police surrounded the building, attempting to trap a gunman. A gunman who had just walked right in and shot one of their beloved attorneys. As they stood by, the armed man realized he would never make it out and turned his gun upon himself. The attorney who was slain had a child on the way and they later learned that the person who killed him was his own father in law. In one day, a young mother lost her husband and her father, by the same hand.
After this experience, the importance of policies and procedures for this kind of thing became apparent to Emily. Blissful ignorance of the ugliness of the world had been lost forever. It’s best to be prepared, regardless of the likelihood of a threat and there is no time to waste in trying to determine the validity.
Reacting Swiftly to Threats of Violence
When the receptionist realized she was handling a threat this week, she immediately alerted her manager. This manager listened in on the call while attempting to reach our client, urging them to call 911. It was near impossible to know who to call due to this client having locations all over the United States – the exact location being threatened was unknown. However, once it was clear that we were unable to make contact with the client, our manager contacted her local 911 and they directed us to the FBI.
Eventually, the caller made his location known and the FBI was able to contact the proper local authorities and deescalate the threat. Whew! What a whirlwind.
Though our team handled it well, this event revealed that our process to handle threats wasn’t quite perfect. The employees at Back Office Betties had not dealt with a true threat of this nature before. We’ve since done a little more research and now have trainings in place for every member of our team.
Regardless of incomplete training, our manager and receptionist perfectly exhibited one of our Bettieisms: Resourcefulness. They acted professionally, kept the caller on the line, and went through all of the proper channels in the background.
What We Learned From The Bomb Threat
- We have an amazing team that knows how to think on their feet.
- It’s important to have policies and procedures in place for any kind of potential threat.
- Our clients need to have their own safety policies and procedures in place.
- There are different levels of bomb threats, from low risk to high risk.
- Every threat towards an attorney should be taken seriously until proved otherwise.
- Calling 911 only works locally – it’s important to call the nonemergency line local to our client and let them patch us over.
- Threats of violence are scary, even if they turn out to be a false alarm.
Resources to Keep on Hand in Case of Bomb Threats
In the event your firm ever has to experience a threat of this nature, we’ve compiled some helpful resources. You can never be too prepared!
Page 2 of this USDA procedure sheet offers a checklist for bomb threats by phone.
This Department of Homeland Security brochure covers proper procedures and a threat assessment.
This article goes over some steps to identify potential issue clients and offers ways to protect yourself.
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