Ep. 07 Suspicious Activity, Bomb Threat

Appalachian State University Emergency Planner and host Debi Trivette will be talking about what to do if we encounter suspicious persons, things, activities or maybe even a bomb threat.


Debi Trivette: Thank you so much for joining us today for our 7th podcast episode about Emergency Management at Appalachian State University. I am Debi Trivette, Emergency Planner for Appalachian State, and we will be talking about what to do if we encounter suspicious persons, things, activities, or maybe even a bomb threat.

So, let's talk about suspicious persons. You may ask, "what's a suspicious person?" Could be anybody; you know it might be me, it might be your professor, it might be your student, it might be your co-worker, it could be anybody you encounter. We are born with natural instincts and we need to trust those instincts if something doesn't feel right, then trust your instinct. You need to go ahead and report that, whatever it is. If you see somebody and it just doesn't feel right, you get some kind of feeling that's not jiving, try not to be confined with that person and do not confront them in any way, but call university police. Call them and let them come and determine whether its anything to worry about or not. Hopefully, it's not gonna be a thing in the world to worry about but make that call just in case. And I like to tell folks when I'm talking to them with the building emergency teams, you know it doesn't matter if you come to work at 8 o'clock and it's 8:30 and you've called police over there 5 times, and it's been nothing. Thank goodness it's nothing. That awesome, we're glad, everybody is glad; police are not mad, they want to come, they want to support you if you think something's wrong. Like I said if you've already called them 5 times and you need to call them the 6th time, don't second guess it. Don't think a thing in the world about it, make that phone call. It is so very important that you make that phone call because like I said, hopefully, we hope it's nothing but if it is something you need help on the way and that could deter something horrible from happening.

An example I could give you, it's been about three years or so now, um when I first moved to Edwin Duncan I was listening to radio traffic one morning and I heard come across the radio that somebody was scaling Rankin and I was like "oh my Lord", I thought, of course, the worst and I wanted to see what it was but I knew that I couldn't go over there because if it was my greatest fear, an active shooter, and they didn't shoot me Jason would kill me for self-deploying. So, in a little bit it come across all clear. Well, I was like I'm gonna go see what that was all about, curiosity was killing me. I went and went up the steps and rounded the corner for Rankin and Gary Trivette, who was a roofer for us at the time, said "Deb they called police on me" and I said "we'll you do look suspicious what are you doing?" It was cold and he was all bundled up and so was his co-worker that was with him. He said, "well, I'm trying to fix the roof leak." and I said, "They said you were scaling Rankin" and he said, "I am, how do you think I'm gonna get up there?" So, the lady had called. Should she have called? Absolutely. If someone is scaling your building and you don't know who they are, make that phone call. Hopefully it will be nothing like that was, she had no way of knowing they were from physical plant; they were bundled up and you couldn't tell. So, any time that something that looks suspicious to you, please make that phone call and let police determine. There are not gonna say "Debi called me over here just to see what you were doing." No, they are not going to do that. They are not going to call you out or anything. They are just gonna come and check it out and hopefully it is nothing.

Let's talk about suspicious things. You know several years back if you saw a backpack or something laying around and you knew it was Johnny's it was no big deal; Johnny left his backpack. Today we can't make that assumption, we just cannot, it's not safe to do so. So, if you see a backpack sitting around, even if you think it's a student's that's left it, please don't go gather it for them, don't do anything but go call police. Call university police and let them come and determine whether it's safe to pick up that backpack or whatever object it is, let them do that. They do get those calls and it's wonderful that we have never had a problem. We hope it's always that way but please don't put yourself in that danger. Let police decide that it's nothing to worry about.

So, let's talk about suspicious substances. Let's say that you are doing university mail or whatever and you receive a package and there is something white on this package. I want to repeat an example that my director, Jason, said happened when he was at UNC Greensboro. He said that somebody received a letter in the mail, a campus person, and when they received it, it had white stuff on it; and they took the letter down the hall to their neighbor to say "hey look at this, reckon what this is" and then they too took it on down the hall. Well thank goodness it happened to be just sand on that, but should it have been something they would've infected everyone they came into contact with. So please don't do that, warn others to stay out of the area of whatever it is, and call university police. Let them come and determine, okay this is something that is not dangerous, or this is something dangerous and we all need to stay away from it. They are trained to do these things, we are not. We don't ever need to put ourselves in dangerous situations like that, we don't need to take those risks. We need to let the folks who are trained to take the risk to do that and determine whether we're in danger or not. Sometimes we feel like, you know, I'm gonna feel stupid if they come over here and its nothing. No, don't second guess yourself. It's great if they come and it's nothing; that's what we want that's always the outcome we want but it would be a horrible thing if you didn't make that phone call and something bad happened just because you were second guessing yourself. Remember, you need to think about your safety. In any incident your safety is up to you for the first few minutes and especially if nobody else knows about it, you know, nobody can help you if they don't know what's going on. So be that worker bee that makes that phone call, passes that information along and lets people know, hey, something just doesn't seem right, or something might be wrong with this because you could save your life and many others. So please just make the phone call if something just doesn't feel right or just don't look right or something.

Let's say that for whatever reason you're the person that answers the phone, and let's say when the phone rings and you pick it up, it's someone calling in a bomb threat, what do you do? Well there are several things, if you are comfortable doing so and you can think about it, there are several things that you could ask the person that would be clues that would help the police determine where that phone call come from. One thing is, if you have a co-worker or somebody who is in close proximity to you and you can sort of motion to them to call university police or call 9-1-1, call somebody, responder, and let them know while you're still on the phone that'd be great because that would allow them to determine where that phone call was coming from, maybe. The other thing is lots of times when folks are serious about a bomb threat, they will tell you who they're mad at, why they want to blow something up, they are gonna tell you those things. If you could think to ask those questions, they might just answer you and of course that could be clues that would be very helpful.

Let's think about things you might hear in the background. Background can be great clues such as, if you hear traffic, then that person is close to an intersection, that's a good clue for police. Let's say you hear a train whistle, well if they are anywhere in this area, they're gonna have to be in hearing distance of Tweetsie because that's the only train we have. Let's say you hear our campus chimes, that would have to be in hearing distance of campus. Let's say that you hear a deep male voice, he is probably a mature male if his voice is real deep likely and you could probably pick out a child's voice. Let's say you hear my voice, you would know that I am northern person, just kidding I'm a hillbilly. So, all those things would be helpful clues to help police determine who may have made that phone call. Anything that you can tell them like that is gonna help. But let's see what we're gonna do after we're through talking. I mean it may be that you can only just slam down the phone that's okay too; but whatever you do, call university police or call 9-1-1 and let them know. Let them know what happened, tell them everything you can tell them about that phone call.

When I'm talking to the building emergency teams and our plan says that if there is a bomb threat we will not evacuate unless university police tells us to do so unless we feel that our life and safety is in danger. I want to explain to you why our plan says not to evacuate. The reason is because sometimes people will call in bogus bomb threats and sometimes, they just call in a bomb threat to see where you're going to evacuate to. So that could be used at a later date for a secondary device or sometimes they will call it in just to pick folks off as they're going out the door. So, these are the reasons why we say that but the unless is there for a reason too. Now, if I answered the phone and it was a bomb threat, and I thought for sure that I was going to blow sky high if I didn't get out of the building in 5 minutes , guess what I'm doing, I'm going out the building and that's what I'd want you to do too. Like we've told you before, the first few minutes your safety is up to you. You're going to have to make a decision that is the best option for you with the circumstances you were given. But whatever you do, call university police or call 9-1-1 and let them know and if you're gonna evacuate the building. If you're evacuating, on your way out the building, you holler and tell everybody within hearing distance of you, you need to go. Tell them, you know, to get out too. So these are the things that we can think about when we're thinking about suspicious activities, suspicious persons, of course, you know if you see somebody with something that looks like it could be a gun or even that they could be carrying something they shouldn't of course call that in, that would be suspicious stuff. Anything like that, anything that just doesn't seem right, just doesn't look right or feel right, please be that worker bee that calls and passes that information along. That's pretty much an overview of what we should do about a suspicious persons and suspicious activities, and bomb threats.

I thank you very much for joining us today, please plan on listening to our next episode of the podcast about Emergency Management at Appalachian State. If you'd like more information on emergency management related topics and training opportunities please visit emergency.appstate.edu and feel free to email questions to safety@appstate.edu. Thank you very much.