PPA on bomb threat emails: Always contact 112 for advice

PPA vehicle.
PPA vehicle. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

While in-house emergency protocols, including evacuations, can be followed in the event of threatening emails such as those received en masse by many state and public institutions early Thursday morning, the Emergency Center (Hairekeskus) must also be notified, to allow them to assess the case and issue further instruction where necessary.

The emergency number in Estonia is the pan-European 112.

As reported by ERR News, at around 2.30 a.m. Thursday, hundreds of schools, kindergartens, state institutions, public bodies and others received an error-strewn Russian-language email issuing a bomb threat.

The first reports reached the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) at around 4 a.m. The PPA now says the emails are a mass spam campaign aimed at sowing discord, and that there was no substantive risk arising from the threat.

PPA North Prefecture Operations Manager Pirko Pärila said: "The [Tallinn] airport, the bus station, and the railway station all received the bomb threat email."

Given the timing of the email, inevitably reports snowballed as the morning progressed and people logged on to their email account, he added.

The initial reports led to a PPA bomb disposal team working their way through Tallinn Airport, but the threat level was soon lowered when it became clear that the emails represented a mass spamming attack.

Affected institutions were issued instructions on how to act: "As of today I can say that there is no cause to panic, and we don't see any danger," Pärila added.

Pärila said that anyone who receives an email making an apparent bomb threat or similar should remain calm, but also dial 112 – the emergency services number.

The PPA assesses each case individually before deciding whether resources need to be used.

In any event: "If we started sending our resources after every incident with this kind of spam attack, we would be pretty tied down," he added.

On Thursday morning, many schools acted on their own initiative in following their own crisis protocols. This included canceled classes and building evacuations.

While this is the right course of action, it should be done in tandem with contacting the emergency services, to obtain a proper risk assessment, Pärila went on.

Since the origins of the attacks are from outside Estonia, initiated criminal proceedings are difficult to prosecute, though authorities are cooperating with those of other friendly nations who have also been the recipients of such emails, including Latvia, where a spate of similar emails was reported in recent days.

Individual, small-scale threatening emails or phone calls are often not reported by the media so as to discourage attention seekers and copycat acts.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Mirjam Mäekivi

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