Bomb scare reaction exposes weaknesses
October 6, 2006
The campus community got quite the scare last week when a suspicious phone call prompted officials to evacuate North Hall in fear of a bomb.
While we believe Provost Charles Hurt made the right decision to evacuate the building, the University's safety efforts were inconsistent with their guidelines, as well as the rules of logic.
The most obvious problem in last week's fiasco was that the incident wasn't reported until roughly 16 hours after the call was received.
At this point, Public Affairs is unwilling to comment on the cause for delay due to a pending investigation, but also probably because the entire situation is embarrassing to the institution.
In this age of heightened security, how could the statement, "a bomb goes off in North Hall" be so carelessly brushed aside?
If the call had been a serious threat, the lives of students, staff and faculty on campus and in the surrounding residential area would have been placed at risk long before police were contacted at 8:50 a.m. the following day.
Yet even after the building was vacated, it seemed that poor decisions were the norm.
Students whose 11:15 a.m. classes were to be held in North Hall were offered direction in the form of signs posted on the building's doors. The very same building that was suspected to have a bomb inside.
We know now that there was no explosive device within the structure's walls, but what if there had been? Is it really safe for students to stand on the steps of a building that could be moments away from destruction?
The Bomb Threat Procedures section of the University's online Classified Employee Handbook directs all individuals to be at least 300 feet from the evacuated building, which was clearly disregarded last week.
Upon questioning, Public Affairs Director Mark Kinders said the policy would have required officials to rope off the entire block.
"But we also want a safe buffer in the event of an incident," he said.
Though this may seem to be an extreme reaction, a rule such as this should absolutely be enforced if safety is truly the main concern of administrators.
But in the end, the building was efficiently evacuated and no one was harmed.
It is our hope that officials on this campus look to this situation as a learning experience - one that will lead them in the direction of change to prevent any harm to the community in the future.