Notes from the field: A caller just said there is a suspicious package at the back door!

By: October 30th, 2009 Email This Post Print This Post

Believe it or not, healthcare facilities are not exempt from bomb threats. Recently, an office told me what had happened in their practice several weeks ago.

The practice had received some pediatric immunizations in a white Styrofoam box. At the end of the day that box was thrown in the dumpster. A few days later, the Receptionist answered the phone to hear a muffled voice say there was a bomb at the back door. The caller said he would “get Dr._____________” for not listening to him when he was in the office.

Sure enough, when someone ran to that door, there was a white Styrofoam box wrapped with duct tape pushed up against the door. They could hear a ticking sound. The police were called, and the bomb squad was quickly dispatched to the office. The staff and patients had evacuated out the front door to the parking lot.

Turns out there was a ticking alarm clock inside the box. If the caller’s intent was to scare the staff and physicians, this was certainly accomplished.

Did the staff react appropriately? Was the evacuation accomplished without panic? Did the police find the person that called in the bomb threat?

The receptionist did immediately hang up on the caller and run to the back door. The evacuation process seemed “orderly” according to the office manager. Fortunately, fingerprints were lifted from the package, and the caller was apprehended two days later! He was a convicted felon, and his prints were on file.

If this ever happens in your office, here are some tips to help handle this frightening situation:

  • When that call comes in, immediately write a note to a co-worker to alert the police.
  • Someone should confirm there is indeed a suspicious package at a door.
  • The staff member on the phone should listen to the caller to ascertain gender, accent, and background noises. Anything to help find this person.
  • Most importantly, evacuate your building in an organized, efficient manner.

Both the OSHA Safety Program manual and The Help Book: Healthcare Emergency & Lifesaving Plan provide policies and checklists for bomb threats and other emergency situations.


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