Serving Arizona State University Online Since 1995  Current Issue: Friday, February 15, 2008





Bomb threats shut down Schwada

Building closes for more than an hour after caller makes two calls threatening detonation; police able to trace calls

 by Andre Radzischewski
 published on Friday, February 15, 2008

People stand outside as the Schwada building is evacuated because of a bomb threat Thursday afternoon.  Between 700 and 900 people were evacuated by police. /issues/news/703680
Shannon Koehle
People stand outside as the Schwada building is evacuated because of a bomb threat Thursday afternoon. Between 700 and 900 people were evacuated by police.


ASU Police evacuated between 700 and 900 people from the Schwada Classroom Office building at about 1:45 p.m. on Thursday after a caller, in two separate calls, threatened that a bomb was about to be detonated.

The first call came in at 1 p.m., ASU Police Cmdr. Jim Hardina said. The male caller said the bomb was going to detonate at about 2 p.m. and specifically mentioned the School of Geographical Sciences, located in Schwada, Hardina added.

Police later determined that there was no threat and reopened the building at 3:04 p.m. Faculty and staff were allowed to return to their offices, and classes resumed.

After the threat first came in, Hardina, Kay Pealstrom the geographical studies graduate program coordinator and two other University officials deliberated whether to evacuate the building at 1:30 p.m. when Hardina was told about a second call reiterating the threat, Pealstrom said.

The dispatcher told them that the caller had a foreign-sounding voice and was hard to understand, Pealstrom said.

"The two of us looked at each other and said, 'This didn't sound good'," she added.

They decided to evacuate the building and, at 1:39 pm., Pealstrom sent a mass e-mail to 30 faculty members and a school listserv.

"Please evacuate SCOB Immediately this is not a prank!" Pealstrom wrote in her e-mail. "Be out in 5 min alarm will go off at that time."

Barbara Trapido-Lurie, a research professional and one of the recipients of the e-mail, said she didn't pay attention to the note and evacuated only after a uniformed official told her to do so.

Police triggered the building's fire alarm at about 1:45 p.m. but tried to get most people out before then because the noise and elevator shutdowns can cause difficulties, Hardina said.

Pealstrom said, that when the alarm went off, about half of the people were still in the building.

Police told evacuees to get away from the building and cordoned off the perimeter while they searched the building for suspicious objects, Hardina said. Students who were supposed to have class waited outside.

"I have no idea what's going on," said meteorology junior Gretchen Schneider. "I haven't gotten a text message or anything."

ASU spokeswoman Leah Hardesty said the University decided against using the emergency text messaging system, implemented last semester, for this incident.
"Our main concern was getting people out of the building that was in immediate danger," Hardesty said.

Police were able to trace where the threatening calls came from, Hardina said, but no arrests were made as of 6 p.m. Thursday night.

"We do have suspect information," Hardina said.

The evacuation went smoothly, but staff decided some crucial items missing, Pealstrom said. A master key and lists of important phone numbers and classes taking place would have been helpful, she added.

"Granted, this is Arizona, and it's probably a prank," Pealstrom said. "But I wouldn't want to be the one to say it's a prank when it wasn't."

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