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Every day there are news stories from various countries around the world about bomb threats phoned in by various perpetrators. Sometimes it's school kids who want to skip a day in class, sometimes it's a bored prankster, sometimes it's an organized group set on spreading chaos by shutting down important public locations. But what all bomb threats have in common is that nearly 100% of them are fake. Outside of very specific cases such as the IRA's conflict with the UK government no bombs are ever found and no lives are ever saved.

But are there countries which have a policy of ignoring all bomb threats? Some countries have a policy of refusing to pay ransoms or negotiating with terrorists, so it makes sense for someone to go even further.

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    Uhhh... NRA and the UK government?? – DJohnM Oct 8 '17 at 14:29
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    nearly 100% is not as precise as it appears. In a democracy making such a policy would be political suicide the first time it failed to respond to a real bomb. @DJohnM almost certainly should be read as IRA. – user9389 Oct 8 '17 at 14:42
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    @notstoreboughtdirt plenty of authoritarian regimes out there – JonathanReez Oct 8 '17 at 16:30
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    Countries don't pay ransom because it encourages kidnapping. If people can get ransom money by kidnapping, they will kidnap. However since countries will generally not pay ransom, kidnapping is much less likely to result in a pay out. Ignoring bomb threats does not help to deter bombings. If you ignore actual terrorist threats then you are simply inviting acts of terrorism. – Braydon Oct 8 '17 at 18:25
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    @Braydon well at least here in Czech Republic there hasn't ever been a single bombing in history and all bomb threats so far were fake. I'm not sure if reacting to the threats is helping anyone. – JonathanReez Oct 8 '17 at 18:42
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This is more of a comment than an answer, but I needed the space.

  • The terrorist that sends a bomb threat does not want to kill people1, he just wants to send a "see what we could do if we wanted to" message. If you ignore the bomb threats then the options for the terrorist are two: stop the bombings or continue the bombings without worrying for the civilian casualties. You may end with less material damage but you could also end with more killings. It is a no brainer what the public would prefer.

  • Even if there is no bomb, the public will not like knowing that the government took no action. Imagine that you discover that yesterday there was a bomb threat located just next to your house, and nobody told you move out. Would you just shrug it off? "I am still alive so it does not matter"?

  • And the comparation with negotiations in kidnappings/hostage situations is flawed; in these situations the criminal hopes to win something out of the negotiation, in the case of bomb threats:

    • if the threat is actual then the terrorist has already "done its part" (the bomb is in place) and it becomes a situation of limiting the damages. It is not a negotiation.

    • if it is a false threat the terrorism is likely to cause more damage by showing off the government lack of response. And of course, he can just use communication media beyond the control of the government (e.g. twitter) and spread panic through it.


1Of course, doing illegal activities that involve explosives is a risky business and many people have been murdered by bombs that were meant not to cause victims.

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No.

Authorities are supposed to react in a proportionate way. They don't cancel parades or sporting events for every disturbed person who phones in a bomb threat; but they don't ignore threats either.

Furthermore, governments have laws which forbid:

  • Making a threat against property or human life.
  • Causing a public nuisance or disrupting the lawful business of others.

Breaking these laws is likely to attract the attention of the police.

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But are there countries which have a policy of ignoring all bomb threats? Some countries have a policy of refusing to pay ransoms or negotiating with terrorists, so it makes sense for someone to go even further.

No, because it's in the interest of the one receiving the threat to take action.

In case there is no bomb then there's no harm in taking action as if there would be a bomb. Nobody will blame the services for trying to protect the public.

In case there is a bomb then there will be backlash if it appears the services did not take enough action.

Note that this reasoning holds for countries, local governments and specific people (e.g. the one receiving the call). Nobody wants to be blamed for not taking enough action.

The only downside to responding is that it costs money, but that's mostly public money. As you see, the trade-off is spending some public money or possibly being blamed in case it goes wrong.

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