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September 21, 2023

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University focuses on response plans for hypothetical bomb threats, emergencies on campus

In light of the Boston bombings and related incidents close to nearby colleges, the University is furthering its own procedures and response plans for a theoretical emergency on campus.

An emergency management plan outlines the University’s response to various accidents, weather-related disasters or threats.

Being prepared for such issues gives first responders and school administrators the chance to know what to do in case of an emergency, said University Police Captain Michael Campbell.

In the case of a bomb threat phone call, responders even have a prepared checklist of things to ask the perpetrator to be able to judge the call’s credibility and help with an initial investigation.

“It just gives them a guide they can pull up and use,” Campbell said.

In case of a large-scale emergency, the Perry Field House can also be used as a makeshift hospital, accommodating up to 500 patients, according to the emergency management plan.

Adjusting to different scenarios and being aware of incidents outside the University such as the Boston bombings is important, said Michael Ginsburg, associate dean of students.

The University also conducts practice simulations of emergencies like bomb threats every other year, Ginsburg said.

This year’s simulations will come just months after two bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon earlier this month. Three people were killed in the blasts, including an eight-year-old boy.

One suspect of the bombings is in custody, having also been accused of killing a Massachusetts Institute of Technology campus police officer days after the Marathon tragedy.

While such bomb threats and disasters are rare, the University has had them before, Ginsburg said.

“The last time we had a bomb threat it was from a former student, so he wasn’t under the jurisdiction of the student code of conduct,” he said.

The Codes of Conduct, listed in the annual student handbook, states that a student carrying out a bomb threat would be sanctioned by the University.

At the minimum, the student would be suspended from the University and would likely face permanent expulsion, Ginsburg said.

“Obviously that kind of behavior would not be something we would take lightly,” he said.

As the investigation in Boston continues, any safety conclusions or improvements could find their way into the University handbook or emergency plan.

While bomb threats aren’t something the University has an issue with, the emergency response plan is important to maintain and continue revising, Campbell said.

“It’s something we always want to keep looking at, changing,” he said.

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