On Aug. 23, our newsroom in Cottonwood was among several businesses at 830 S. Main Street evacuated due to a bomb threat.

The threat did not target our newsroom specifically, but rather the general complex, which includes several financial services offices, an insurance company, a medical marijuana certification center and a drug-testing facility.

Cottonwood police searched the complex, found no explosive devices and allowed employees to return back to work.

It was annoying to the workers and annoying to police, but necessary on the off chance someone actually did place a bomb that could kill or wound people. It wasted employees’ time and taxpayer funds to have police officers go on a wild goose chase when they could be out on legitimate law enforcement duties.

Calling in a bomb threat to avoid an exam or drug test is a trope of bad television or lazy fiction.

When I was a high school junior, a student called in a bomb threat to our high school during final exam week. Mesa police evacuated 3,000 students to the football field while they searched the building.

While we initially joked about how the reprieve from testing was great, the humor melted away after sitting in bleachers in the Phoenix midday sun in late May. When we were let back inside after three hours, students already anxious about final exams were willing to do far worse things to the suspect than the law would allow. Police never identified the caller, which was probably lucky for him or her.

In an era when religious fundamentalists, anti-government nationalists and a host of various political terrorists kills hundreds or thousands of people a month worldwide by planting bombs, driving semi-trucks into crowds, flying planes into buildings or going on shooting sprees, a fictitious bomb threat is not humorous.

Law enforcement takes such threats seriously and the penal system has adjusted to a more dangerous world. Technology has also improved the ability to identify a suspect.

A bomb hoax can result in five years in prison. Placing a fake bomb carries a host of state and federal charges. According to the FBI, under federal statute, anyone who calls or emails a bomb threat to a school or educational institution can receive up to 10 years in a federal prison.

Juveniles can be charged as adults if prosecutors decide to go that route. Parents, whether they were aware of it or not, can also be charged if their child calls in a bomb threat.

Facing years of prison time for a momentary escape of a single exam or drug test is not worth the risk.