City leaders reflect on recent bomb scare

By TAYLOR

MURCHISON-

GALLAGHER

STAFF WRITER

One week after a nationwide bomb scare hoax, Police Chief Brian Gould and Mayor Ellen Zoppo-Sassu, took a moment to reflect on the procedures the city has in place.

On the afternoon of Thursday, Dec. 13, suspicious emails were received at the Bristol Senior Center facility, 240 Stafford Ave., the Manross Library, 260 Central St., and a business on Lake Avenue.

It was later discovered these messages were connected to similar emails received at several locations across the country, including Griswold Elementary School in Berlin, the National Shooting Association in Newtown, Seybridge Plaza in Seymour, and two office buildings in Bloomfield.

Zoppo-Sassu said she was in a board meeting at the Bristol-Burlington Health District, one of the many offices housed at 240 Stafford Ave., when the staff member who received the email alerted her director. The call was made to evacuate, and Zoppo-Sassu noted that the other offices – the Probate Court, the Early Education Center, and senior center – also executed their evacuation plans.

The mayor said an employee of City Hall also received an email, but was not aware of it until the following day. This message was added to the report, but was found to be “just a part of that overall hoax pattern.”

Gould said that it’s the police department’s policy to “treat all these types of threats as real until proven otherwise.” This means the first priority is to “coordinate a safe, efficient response” of first responders so that once on scene, they can determine whether or not the building should be evacuated. The determination for evacuation is made in conjunction with the Fire Department and supervisor of the facility.

If an evacuation takes place, Gould explained first responders would continue by searching for any type of device. If one is found, they will immediately cordon off the area and alert the regional bomb squad.

Gould said no devices were found at the three Bristol locations.

Gould said that it’s important the public is aware that the Department of Homeland Security has downloadable PDF forms that include information on “what you should be looking for or what you should be doing when that type of threat comes in,” as many bomb threats are made via a form of communication such as telephone call or email. He also said it’s important for all businesses and families to have a “all hazards plan,” and to hold drills so that every member of the facility knows how to properly respond.

The bomb threat guidance brochure can be found by visiting dhs.gov

While Gould believes the city has adequate procedures in place already, he said that the department benefits from each time they go into a situation such as this, as it serves as an exercise in best practices. Once a situation is properly handled, the department will review the procedure and techniques, such as the fashion of the evacuation or the response time of calling in the appropriate agencies.

The mayor emphasized all facilities in the city have procedural plans in place in the event of a threat. This includes the Board of Education facilities and City Hall. She also said it was important to know that Bristol first responders train and drill techniques frequently, in order to be most effective when arriving on scene.

The Bristol Senior Center was the target of a recent national bomb scare. (JANELLE MORELLI PHOTO)