Bomb threats at local hospitals prompt renewed focus on preparation
A rash of recent bomb threats to area healthcare institutions has heightened awareness and deepened discussion about bomb threat protocols.
In August, Urbana’s Carle Foundation Hospital and Decatur’s Memorial and St. Mary’s hospitals all received bomb threats within a week. Although the Urbana and Decatur callers appear unrelated, the organizations responded similarly with success.
Carle Security and local police, including canine units, turned up nothing suspicious at the Urbana campus. The Urbana campus closed briefly to incoming visitors and cancelled some patient appointments. By 6 p.m., all operations returned to normal.
Law enforcement officials praised area hospitals’ response to these threats noting employees reacted calmly and appropriately to the calls and got as much detail as possible to assist in the search for explosive devices on site. Sweeps of each facility turned up no devices and operations continued.
“Do not touch the item but take note of the type of item, the location and why it appears out place,” said Aaron Landers, University of Illinois, Division of Public Safety said.
When conducting a search, be on the lookout for unexplainable wires or electronics, other visible bomb-like components, unusual sounds, vapors, mists and odors.
Brief advice: If you see something, say something.
“Report what you see immediately to security staff or local law enforcement,” said Landers said. “Pay attention to where something is placed. Anything hidden or not typical in public areas close to people and other valuable assets could be a threat.”
The Department of Homeland Security provides helpful planning resources for facilities.
“Having a plan in advance makes the response to bomb threats, unattended items or suspicious items as orderly and controlled as possible,” said Anita Guffey, director, Carle Emergency Management.
Conducting regular exercises can reduce the risk and impact on regular activities.
At both Decatur hospitals, officials said staff asked the caller questions then sprang into action.
“The caller said a bomb would explore in three minutes,” said Bev Coon, EMS Coordinator, HSHS St. Mary’s Hospital. “We reached out to police who conducted quick sweep and cleared us within 20 minutes.” Police arrested the suspect later that evening. Carle’s bomb threat investigation is ongoing.