UT Austin Evacuates Campus Over Terror Threat
The University of Texas’ flagship campus shut down for hours on Friday after a bomb threat was called in. Though the threat appears to have been false, the episode has raised lingering questions about emergency preparedness on college campuses.
A single phone call came in to the University just after 8:30am; the caller claimed to be affiliated with Al Qaeda, and that a bomb on campus would go off in 90 minutes or later, according to university president Bill Powers. University officials then consulted local and federal law enforcement officials.
But a text message didn’t go out over the school’s emergency system until almost 90 minutes later, as the school’s sirens blared. The evacuation was apparently orderly, but confusing and tense.
Though classes were cancelled for the day, the university reopened by noon, and activities were scheduled to resume at 5pm.
Though the shootings at Columbine High School in 1999 changed the way many educational institutions (not to mention law enforcement organizations) address safety and security, universities have continued to struggle with emergency preparedness. When a shooter killed two in a residence hall at Virginia Tech in 2007, the university did not notify students for almost two hours, believing the violence to be isolated; by then, the perpetrator was on his way to continuing the deadliest single-gunman massacre in US history.
UT Austin already has a sad history with campus violence. It was the site of one of the first and most traumatizing public shootings in US history- when Charles Whitman, a seemingly happy and normal man, took to a clock tower with a rifle and killed 11 people before being shot by police.
[via Austin American-Statesman; Photo credit AP/Statesman Ricardo B. Brazziell]