In just the first few months of 2022, and throughout the course of the year, there has been a troubling uptick in bomb threats across the country, 49 of which targeted Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and 19 against Predominately Black Institutions (PBIs). These threats – which can traumatize campuses and communities – triggered evacuations and a broad law enforcement response.
Our top priority is keeping all communities safe and the Department of Homeland Security is fundamentally a department of partnerships. In response to the threats against HBCUs and PBIs, DHS immediately met with leaders from affected communities to learn how we can best support them and followed up with information on the resources we can provide to help them stay safe.
To address these threats, Secretary Mayorkas and the Department have expanded the accessibility of DHS’s broad spectrum of services, resources, and expertise to support HBCUs across the country. In January 2022, Secretary Mayorkas promised to “…deepen our partnerships with HBCUs to protect students and faculty from an evolving range of threats.”
- In August, DHS announced that we would provide $250 million through the Nonprofit Security Grant Program to support target hardening and other physical security enhancements for nonprofit organizations that are at high risk of a terrorist attack. This year, $125 million is provided to nonprofits in Urban Area Security Initiative-designated areas, and $125 million is provided to nonprofits outside those designated urban areas located in any state or territory.
- DHS’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency’s (CISA) Office of Bombing Prevention developed a suite of resources to assist universities in responding to bomb threats, including Critical Resources for Handling Bomb Threats, which provides an overview of available resources, a bomb threat response plan template, bomb threat awareness job aid, as well as a Tabletop Exercise Package. In the coming months, CISA will host seven additional training events scheduled at five HBCU locations to provide additional information on these resources.
- CISA also conducted 20 trainings on preparing for and responding to bomb threats, reaching more than 1,170 HBCU staff and security personnel. Further, CISA worked with the Atlanta University Center Consortium (AUCC), the world’s oldest and largest consortium of HBCUs, to develop and deliver a nationwide Bomb Threat Management training that addressed the recent wave of bomb threats targeting HBCUs and available federal resources. Representatives from 36 HBCUs across 16 states participated in person, and the event was livestreamed to allow other stakeholders to observe and participate in the discussions.
- Throughout June and July, the DHS Office for State and Local Law Enforcement (OSLLE), in collaboration with its federal partners, held five regional trainings for HBCUs in Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, and Virginia, reaching participants from more than 60 different HBCUs. These trainings were open to campus law enforcement and related public safety officials involved in preventing, protecting against, responding to, and recovering from threats at their campuses.
- In February, DHS hosted an HBCU symposium, “The Path Forward: Campus Safety and Resilience,” to share information on available resources and products on topics such as active shooter preparedness and school safety.
- In April, CISA also conducted an Active Shooter Preparedness webinar for HBCUs. Supported by CISA’s Protective Security Advisor Program, this webinar enhanced awareness of and preparedness for an active shooter event to more than 200 participants across 16 states. Attendees included HBCU safety and security directors, administrators, emergency responders, healthcare providers, and other critical support areas.
- DHS, through OSLLE and TSA, and in coordination with the Department of Justice, established the HBCU K9 Bomb Detection Adoption Program. Three HBCUs have received bomb detection K9s to support campus law enforcement response efforts during an active bomb threat incident to date.
- DHS Center for Prevention Programs & Partnerships (CP3) Regional Prevention Coordinators’ outreach efforts totaled 110 engagements that included organized meetings, provision of resources, and technical assistance to HBCU leaders, staff, security and law enforcement partners at the state and federal levels.
There is much more to be done. DHS remains committed to using all its resources, in coordination with other federal partners, to ensure HBCUs and PBIs have the capabilities and tools they need to prevent, protect against, and respond to threats made against their institutions.
DHS’s response has been a result of a concerted effort across its agencies and offices. The Department has also partnered with the Department of Education’s White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence and Economic Opportunity through HBCUs; the Department of Justice; and others to make a range of services and resources available to HBCUs.
For additional resources on campus safety, read the DHS Summary of Resources for State, Local, Tribal, Territorial, and Campus Law Enforcement Partners.