Bomb Scare Costs

27/06/2008

Offices, shops, the museum, library and several shops in Oamaru’s CBD  were evacuated yesterday, about an hour after a phone call at 1.50 warned of a bomb in the Trust Power call centre.

A sniffer dog could have been sent from Christchurch by helicoptor but a policeman told some of the evacuees that they’d been told that would be too expensive so  the dog was driven down by road – a trip of about 3 1/2 hours.

It arrived at about 6.20 and the building was declared safe by 8pm.

The helicoptor, according to the grapevine which I accept is not a reliable source of information, would have cost $1,200.

I don’t know the cost of a seven hour return trip by road for the dog and its handler, and for the police officers who had to keep people at bay for nearly six hours. Nor do I know the cost to the businesses which had to close; the return trip a Dunedin accountant had to make today because he had to leave his laptop in an office when it was evacuated yesterday; the revenue lost by around 20 retailers, the call centre, a physiotherapist, and other businesses,  which were evacuated or closed beccause the main street was shut off; and the power from the lights, heaters, computers  and all the other electrical bits and pieces which were left on when people left their buildings and not turned off over night as usual.

The police did all they should have yesterday: the evacuation and street closure were prudent and the Oamaru Mail reports they are following “a positive line of enquiry” in the serach for the person who made the hoax call.

But had the dog come by air rather than land everything would have been back to normal nearly four hours earlier. Those people who lost time and business would no doubt think that the cost of the helicoptor would have been worth it.

Footnote: Poneke left this comment on a previous post:

For most of the 290-plus years I was a journalist, the media had a policy of not giving oxygen to bomb and similar hoaxers. We simply did not report them, except in the rare circumstance of them causing massive disruption such as to peak traffic in downtown Auckland, where the public deserved to know what had caused the chaos.

Now every piddly little hoax, of which there are several a week, is reported everywhere.

I wonder if the reporting fuels their frequency?

Yesterday’s court news in the ODT has a report on the trial of a man accused of making a hoax call about a bomb scare at an Oamaru Service Station a few months again, but police don’t think there are any connections between this and yesterday’s call.

The building where the bomb was said to be is directly opposite the ODT and around 100 metres from the Oamaru Mail so it was going to be noticed by the media; and shutting down about a third of the CBD is big news in a small town.

I don’t know whether reporting every little hoax fuels more. Do people who do this sort of thing take any notice of what’s in the news? 

In this case, the grapevine – which again I’ll admit is not always reliable – has many tales about the hard calls that are being made from call centres to people who can’t, or won’t, pay their bills. We’ll have to wait until the court case, if there is one, to know whether this was the act of an aggrieved debtor or not.


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