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The GW Hatchet


The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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Campus, city receive threats

Several bomb threats on campus and around D.C. have caused disruptions since last Tuesday’s terrorist attacks, but none have materialized.

Students evacuated a business class in Monroe Hall Thursday afternoon after a man wearing a large black backpack entered and walked to the front of the classroom while professor Tom Quasney lectured.

The student asked Quasney several questions, and the class of about 70 students became silent. Two students, worried that the bag might contain a bomb, grabbed their belongings and left quickly, and the rest of the class followed. Some students called University Police as Quasney talked with the man.

UPD Director Dolores Stafford said the man was “slightly incoherent and didn’t seem to understand why interrupting a class unannounced would be considered odd behavior.”

Stafford said the man was taken into custody and soon released. The man wanted to add the business and government relations class to his schedule, Stafford said.

“Given the timing of the minor scare and spending class talking about Tuesday’s terrorist attacks, you can’t blame the reaction students had, because when trouble does arise you only have seconds to think,” said senior Seth Seigle, who was in the class.

Stafford said police could not trace a call that evacuated Ross Hall with a bomb threat Tuesday. She said UPD searched the building and found nothing. She said UPD has no leads.

GW also evacuated the Marvin Center after two suspicious packages, suspected to be bombs, arrived at the building Tuesday morning, and The Aston was cleared of students Tuesday because of a bomb threat at the Wyndham hotel next door.

The University sent an e-mail to all students, faculty and staff Friday afternoon directing attention to emergency procedures available on the GW Web site and in the GW phone directory.

The procedures include nearly every possible emergency, from utility failure to gas leaks. The bomb threat and suspicious package section instructs students and staff who come across a suspicious package not to touch it and to evacuate and call UPD immediately.

The procedures also include a list of details for describing a bomb-threat caller, with questions like “when is the bomb going to explode?” and “where is it right now?”

GW Assistant Director of Media Relations Bob Ludwig said these procedures have been in effect for some time.

“Because of recent events, we added (the emergency procedures) to the main University Web page,” he said. He also said the University has evacuation plans for single buildings and multiple buildings, but for campus-wide evacuations the University would ask D.C. for help.

“We’d take guidance from the city because the city is responsible for issues such as the evacuation of residents,” Ludwig said.

Stafford and MPD Public Information Officer Sgt. Joe Gentile declined to reveal specific procedures for handling bomb threats. Stafford said the two departments train and work together on security issues such as bomb threats.

“In the case of GW, they have their own security force,” Gentile said. “They can search and if (a bomb) is located, we’ll send in a removal team.”

Stafford said the recent bomb threats were the first she has heard of during her 10 years at GW.

According to Hatchet reports, the Medical Faculty Associates building at 22nd and I streets received a bomb threat call March 5 at 6 p.m. The building was not evacuated.

All D.C. schools also received two collective threats last spring, the Hatchet reported.

The School Without Walls on G Street was also evacuated after a bomb threat September 10, 1999, at 1 p.m. and Lisner Hall received a suspicious package Jan. 20, 1999, according to reports.

American University evacuated its main campus Thursday after two bomb threats were called into the front desk of a residence hall. American Director of Media Relations Todd Sedmak said both threats came before 10:15 a.m.

“We had the impression that (the detonation of the bomb) was going to be at noon,” he said. “Because we didn’t have an exact location, we evacuated the whole campus for safety reasons.”

According to a press release, the campus was closed at 10 a.m. and all classes were cancelled until 5 p.m. The “all clear” was given in the early afternoon, and campus buildings were reopened at 1:30 p.m.

“We have plans for these kind of situations,” Sedmak said.

Georgetown University sent food and shuttle buses to help with the evacuation at American, according to the press release.

Sedmak said American’s Office of Information Technology, at 4200 Wisconsin Ave., also received a bomb threat Friday. Emergency personnel searched the building but found nothing and reopened the facility.

Sedmak said MPD and American security officers may know the person who called in the threats at the main campus.

“They anticipate an arrest shortly,” AU President Benjamin Ladner said in the press release.

A number of high-profile scares also occurred throughout D.C. last week.

Lt. Dan Nichols, spokesman for U.S. Capitol Police, said the Capitol building received a bomb threat Thursday evening at 5:30 p.m.

Capitol Police sent officers and K-9 teams to investigate. The dogs “indicated,” or gave a signal, that there was a bomb.

The Capitol was evacuated, a bomb team was sent in and “nothing of a hazardous nature was found,” Nichols said.

Employees and visitors returned to the building by 6:30 p.m.

Gentile said a suspicious vehicle was reported Friday morning at the Saudi Arabian embassy at 601 New Hampshire Ave. next to the Watergate complex. MPD investigated, but “there was nothing to it,” Gentile said.

Gentile said MPD received a larger number of bomb threat and suspicious package reports than usual last week.

Between Tuesday and Thursday, MPD received 41 bomb-threat calls and 77 suspicious package calls, Gentile said. MPD had received three bomb-threat calls and seven suspicious report calls Friday by 5 p.m.

“Depending on the time of year, we average three to four bomb threats a week, and two suspicious packages a week,” Gentile said.

Nichols said this phenomenon is common.

“It’s not unusual when there’s a terrorist attack to have a large number of suspicious packages and bomb threats,” he said.

Despite possible delays and inconveniences, administrators and law enforcement officers agree precautions are necessary.

“We just appreciate everyone’s patience and understanding during this unfortunate time in Washington and in our nation,” Sedmak said.

-Jason Safdi? contributed to this report.

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