Universities prepare as bomb threats across the nation continue

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As a spike in bomb threats at major universities continues across the country, many schools are preparing for the possibility that they will be the next target.

Since Friday’s bomb threat at UT, bomb threats have targeted Arkansas State University, Louisiana State University, UT-Brownsville, North Dakota State University and The University of Mississippi football players’ cars. As a result, major universities are taking notice, sending out safety messages and reviewing their emergency procedures in case they are the next target, said Allan Baron, Texas A&M Universtiy Police Department spokesperson.

“It’s a really difficult situation to deal with,” he said. “So, that’s the whole thing. I think a lot of these colleges and universities are taking an in-depth look.”

Baron said Texas A&M University has taken measures to increase campus awareness and review emergency plans of action.

“In light of the recent threats, we have made our staff and faculty aware of what the procedures are for reporting these incidents,” he said. “Also, we have discussed the different options that are available, that can be utilized in a situation such as what The University of Texas had on their campus, so that we can adequately deal with the whole situation.”

During UT’s evacuation, not everyone moved at least 300 feet away from evacuated buildings, which is the minimum evacuation distance listed in UT’s emergency plans. The alerts UT issued did not specificy the minimum evacuation distance listed in UT’s security plans.

Baron said he hopes Texas A&M University is able to properly evacuate people, should it recieve a bomb threat. He said, like UT, Texas A&M University also has a 300-foot minimum evacuation distance in case of possible hazards.

“That 300-foot radius, that’s really hard to control,” Baron said. “A lot of time and man-power has to be put into a situation like that, and it has to be done in a relatively short amount of time.”

Erik Vasys, spokesperson for the FBI office in San Antonio, said investigations into all recent bomb threats are ongoing, and he is not able to say whether there is a connection between any of the threats at this time.

“It could just be copy cats,” he said.

Officials said arrests have been made in connection with the threats to Louisiana State University, Arkansas State University and UT-Brownsville, but not in connection with the threats targeting UT, North Dakota State University and University of Mississippi football players’ cars.

Officials with the Oxford, Mississippi, Police Department said a man called 911 at 7:46 a.m. Tuesday and told the operator there were bombs in cars belonging to University of Mississippi football players. Police then tracked down all the players, searched their cars and deemed the threat false. No one has been arrested in relation to the Miss. bomb threat, said Mike Martin, Chief of the Oxford Police Department.

Kimberly Dandridge, student body president at the university, tweeted a copy of the University of Mississippi’s emergency-situation instructions Monday morning as a precaution. She said she couldn’t believe it when a threat was called in later that day.

Vasys said penalties for the individuals making these threats will be severe if they are caught.

A terroristic threat charge under Texas state law would be classified as a third degree felony in these cases. That comes with a penalty of 2 to 10 years in prison and a possible fine of up to $10,000. Other states have varying penalties for the crime. Civil implications could exist as well.

University spokesperson Rhonda Weldon said she is unsure of the direct financial cost of Friday’s threat for UT, as it would be difficult for the University to calculate.

Printed on Thursday, September 20, 2012 as: Universities respond to bomb threats