Colleges handle bomb threats
With the recent rise in threats of violence to American universities, students, staff and faculty might be beginning to question if their homes-away-from-home are actually as safe as they once thought.
Arkansas State University was marked on Tuesday afternoon as the sixth since Friday to receive a bomb threat, forcing them to evacuate a residence hall and the International Student Center for the day while law enforcement agencies combed the area.
“It is one of those situations we hope we never have to encounter,” said Chief of UH Police Ceaser Moore.
Other universities receiving threats include North Dakota State University, Ohio State and University of Texas at Austin on Friday; University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College on Sunday and Louisiana State University on Monday. To date, three arrests have been made and no explosives have detonated at any of the universities.
Authorities say it is unclear if these threats are in any way linked, but campus safety agents encourage universities to prepare for disasters or emergencies at any time.
“Decision makers need to evaluate each threat on a case-by-case basis,” Alison Kliss, executive director of the Clery Center for Security on Campus, told The Texas Tribune. “There is no prescription for how to react to an emergency.”
According to the University of Houston’s Department of Public Safety, UH has its own policy for procedure after receiving bomb threats; however, they do not wish to disclose it to the public.
“Number one, we really want to be as limited as we can in discussing our policies,” Moore said.
When receiving a bomb threat via phone, the most common medium for such threats, UH’s “Bomb Threat Checklist” asks the recipient of the threat to remain calm and keep the caller on the line for as long as possible, getting as much information as he or she can. After the phone call is over, the individual should quickly write down as much as he or she remembers from the conversation and immediately contact the police or UHDPS.
After a bomb threat, individuals should not use radio or cellular devices, activate fire alarms, touch or move any suspicious packages or evacuate the building until police arrive and evaluate the threat.
“We teach people to be smart and think throughout the process. Don’t not be aware of the situation,” Moore said.
Despite the preparation, Moore notes that most threats are false and that the news hype may be sensationalist.
“I just hope such an event doesn’t happen here. I think it creates an environment of fear,” Moore said.
“People make threats and do these things, and it impacts people for years. Ninety percent end up being hoaxes.”
Additional reporting by Christopher Shelton.