The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

July 29, 2011
Child Support Services' handling of bomb threat raises concerns

Some Department of Child Support Services employees raised concerns this week at a staff meeting about the department's handling of a phoned-in bomb threat.

The phone call came in on a call center employee's personal line at 9:43 a.m. Wednesday, but the full staff was not notified about the threat until 2:19 p.m. The department didn't call for an evacuation, and some employees criticized the lack of a thorough search. At least one employee said some contracted security guards and managers were joking about the threat in the intervening hours.

The department's deputy director for administration, Mark Beckley, said security protocols would definitely be revisited in light of Wednesday's events.

But at the bottom of everything, he said is that department officials and California Highway Patrol officers determined the threat just wasn't credible. He said that threats which are very specific generally earn more merit. Beckley said this was the first phone threat the department received since he arrived in 2007.

DCSS locations are kept hidden from the public and require electronic key cards to enter.

Department spokeswoman Connie DaMant said "it was not prudent to a raise alarm over a low-level threat" by notifying employees.

"If we sent an email, we might as well as have evacuated anyway," Beckley said. "The idea is to handle it as discretely as possible, but the presence of CHP officers raised some worries among the staff."

As to some of the ill-toned comments, Beckley said: "We've immediately notified contracted security guards that they need to handle incidents with tact ... and utmost seriousness. We will be impressing upon all managers that you need to take this serious and be aware of staff perceptions."

The department has never held a drill for a bomb threat, but Beckley said that one was likely in the future.

Here's the department's narrative of Wednesday's incident:

On Wednesday, July 27 at 9:43 AM, the Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) received a bomb threat at one of its location. The employee immediately notified their supervisor who in turn contacted our departmental Security Officer and the DCSS Facilities Manager.

The DCSS Security Officer then immediately notified the California Highway Patrol (CHP). Two CHP officers then quickly came on-site to provide assistance. The DCSS Facilities Manager immediately notified DCSS executive management of the threat.

The DCSS Facilities Manager referenced and complied with state regulations, DCSS emergency response procedures, and DGS Building Occupancy Policy to respond to the threat. The Facilities Manager activated the DCSS Emergency Response Teams (ERT) to conduct a search of the facilities and consulted with the CHP officers regarding the search effort. A search was conducted of the facilities and no suspicious items were identified.

DCSS takes bomb threats very seriously and we responded immediately in compliance with state policy and DCSS emergency response procedures. In light of this incident, we will take the opportunity to review our protocols and emergency response procedures to build in any additional actions/activities we should incorporate to ensure the maximum security of our staff when a bomb threat is received.


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About The State Worker

Jon Ortiz The Author

Jon Ortiz launched The State Worker blog and a companion column in 2008 to cover state government from the perspective of California government employees. Every day he filters the news through a single question: "What does this mean for state workers?" Join Ortiz for updates and debate on state pay, benefits, pensions, contracts and jobs. Contact him at (916) 321-1043 and at jortiz@sacbee.com.

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