Bomb threats: ‘We’re going to err on the side of caution’

October 29, 2012  |  
John Beshara

John Beshara

In the wake of a series of high profile bomb threats at universities nationwide, Police Chief John Beshara is conducting meetings across campus to talk about the potential for and response to such threats on the YSU campus.

“Awareness and education are vital in responding to any emergency situation on campus, including bomb threats,” Beshara said. “My hope is that these meetings will help employees and students better understand and be better prepared to respond to those types of incidents.”

The chief said he developed the 22-slide PowerPoint presentation after several schools, including the University of Texas, North Dakota State and Hiram College, received bomb threats on Sept. 14, 2012, that resulted in the mass evacuation of those campuses. This past spring semester, the University of Pittsburgh received 46 bomb threats at 143 buildings, resulting in several evacuations and a significant disruption of university operations.

Beshara said YSU police respond to the scene of all bomb threats. The type and magnitude of the response, however, is determined in part on criteria developed by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms that assesses the credibility of a threat. The most serious of all decisions to be made is whether or not to evacuate a building or the campus, the chief said.

“Ninety-nine percent of such threats are hoaxes, so we cannot kowtow to every threat that we get,” he said. “But I can say that if there is any credibility whatsoever in any threat we get, we will not hesitate to evacuate. We’re going to err on the side of caution.”

“It’s a tough decision,” he added.

In his presentation, Beshara encourages anyone on campus who receives a bomb threat via telephone to try to get as much information from the caller as possible, including the location and type of bomb, when it is set to explode, why the bomb was placed, etc.

“The person who picks up the phone needs to get good information; that’s important,” he said.

He also encouraged departments to develop response and evacuation plans in the event of a threat, and he said YSU police will assist in such planning.

To schedule a bomb threat presentation, contact Beshara at 330-941-3527 or jmbeshara@ysu.edu.

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