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Bomb threat demonstrates campus emergency preparedness

Many students were in class on Oct. 19 when an unnerving warning about a bomb threat was delivered to the campus community through the university’s emergency notification system.

Earlier the same day, Washington State University Vancouver’s police services received an anonymous phone call saying there was a bomb in one of the buildings on campus.

Not knowing if the threat was credible, campus police coordinated with local authorities to investigate the threat. Within about 30 minutes of the emergency notification, the all-clear was given.

The VanCougar sat down with the department of public safety to learn how campus police respond to bomb threats, and what students can do to stay safe. According to Lt. Dave Stephenson, threat credibility is determined based on a decision matrix, the details of which police do not share with the public.

However, Stephenson said that the matrix looks at a variety of criteria ranging from the circumstances of the situation to current events in popular culture and media in order to decide what course of action to take in the case of a bomb scare.

Last month’s bomb threat consisted of a 7-second phone call to police that simply said there was a bomb on campus. Campus and community police, fire fighters and school administrators assessed the threat. Through the established process, Stephenson said, the decision was made to keep the campus open.

State law requires that schools be prepared to effectively deal with emergency situations. At WSU Vancouver, this includes keeping students informed of threats or emergency situations on campus. This is done quickly and efficiently with the university’s emergency notification system.

The notification system sends alerts of campus emergencies directly to students, staff and faculty. The system also provides updates on ongoing emergencies and guidelines for how to respond when in danger. Notifications can be received through mobile phones and landlines, as well as email alerts.

Stephenson would like to remind all students, staff and faculty that they should sign up for the notification system so that they can be swiftly contacted about emergencies in the future.

To sign up for alerts, log into MyWSU and look for a link under “Vancouver Emergency Info.” This link provides instructions to register to receive notifications for on campus incidents. During emergencies, additional information can be found on the “VanCoug Alerts” page at https://www.vancouver.wsu.edu/alerts.

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