A bomb threat or bomb scare is a threat, usually verbal or written, to detonate an explosive or incendiary device to cause property damage, death or injuries, whether or not such a device actually exists.

Bomb threats became issues post World War II, when the United States moved forward with the decision to bomb Japan with the atomic bomb.

In 1945, President Harry S. Truman suggested that the society of the future may see a time when bombs can be constructed in secret and used without warning to effectively destroy territories and unsuspecting targets or groups of much greater size and power, such as nations and countries.[1] On August 6, 1945, the American military successfully bombed the Japanese city of Hiroshima and brought this threat to reality. After this bombing happened without no prior warning to Japan and its citizens, the American Air Force adopted a plan which enforced informing citizens and civilians when a zone was to be bombed or deemed a war zone.[2]

Bomb scares are taken seriously and punished accordingly. Society has been scared into taking all threats seriously because civilians are usually threatened by them and communities take all measures to be safe. Authorities protect these communities by assuming all bomb threats are with bad intent.[3] Even a false bomb threat has a maximum fine of $5,000 and up to 5 years in prison.[4]

Criminal statutes typically dictate severe penalties. For example, in the United States, Massachusetts provides for penalties of up to 20 years in prison, up to $50,000 fine, and restitution for the costs of the disruption.[5] New York law makes it an "Class E Felony ... to issue a false bomb threat directed toward a school in New York State."[6]

Some statutory definitions include the threatened use, release or placement of other harmful agents, such as poisons, biological pathogens, radioactive materials, or even a dangerous weapon (e.g., aboard an airliner). Other statutes enhance the penalties for threats made against specific places or persons (e.g. government facilities or dignitaries), and the actual possession of harmful devices or agents.

Many bomb threats that are not pranks are made as parts of other crimes,[citation needed] such as extortion, arson, or aircraft hijacking. Actual bombings for malicious destruction of property, terrorism, or murder are often perpetrated without warning.

The decision to evacuate an area or building, depending on the perceived reliability of the threat, may be made by local controlling authorities or those in charge of the targeted facility based on advice from bomb disposal experts. When a large facility is involved, it can be very difficult and time-consuming to ensure the absence of any bomb or other hazardous device or substance.

During the Northern Ireland conflict, paramilitary groups used pre-arranged code words when making bomb threats, to add authenticity to their claims of involvement. The codes would be updated regularly and provided to the police and the media.[7]

Bomb threats are often called in at educational institutions, sometimes by students who feel under stress due to academic pressure.[8][9][10][11][12][13]

Notable incidents

See also