UT officials failed to meet the goals set forth in their own pre-set emergency plans Friday as they attempted to evacuate students from all campus buildings.
According to UT’s Building Management & Restricted Access Plan, “evacuate” in terms of an emergency building evacuation includes individuals distancing themselves “at least 300 feet (one block)” from the building being evacuated. However, at 10:05 a.m., the time the still-unidentified individual who called in the bomb threat said the bombs would go off, many students lingered within that 300-foot radius of campus buildings. Had the bomb threat been legitimate, those students could have found themselves in danger.
In a statement issued Friday, President William Powers Jr. said the University’s goal in the evacuation was to get everyone to evacuate the buildings, a measure that University spokesperson Rhonda Weldon said includes distancing everyone 300 feet away from those buildings.
“Part of evacuating the building is your gathering point is at least a block away, 300 feet away,” Weldon said. “So, that’s part of the evacuation plan. It’s part of the evacuation instructions.”
UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa said in a statement released Friday that he was satisfied with UT’s response.
“President Bill Powers, his staff and the UT and Austin Police forces responded quickly and appropriately to ensure the safety and protection of everyone on campus.”
Robert Nunez, Austin Police Department Bomb Squad spokesperson, said his unit uses the 300-foot guideline as the minimum requirement for the distance of evacuation for an area where there may possibly be a bomb, even in the most minor cases.
“If it’s just something small, like backpack-sized, you would kind of start at that 300 feet and work out from there,” he said.
Nunez said his unit was not deployed to deal with Friday’s bomb threat.
Jackson Kirkman, international relations and global studies freshman, said UT didn’t get students out of the 300-foot radius in part because of its delayed response in issuing a campus alert.
“It seems like really poor planning to me,” Kirkman said Friday as he watched students evacuate campus. “If they were going to wake us up, they should have known right, first thing, ‘Oh, we gotta wake them up and get them out of there,’ and then they should have cleared things out then instead of doing them now at 11:21 a.m., which is what they are doing right now. They are clearing the buildings.”
The individual who made the bomb threat Friday at 8:35 a.m. telephoned the University and said that bombs were hidden in University buildings and would go off in 90 minutes, at 10:05 a.m. For unknown reasons, the University chose to wait 75 minutes before issuing a campus-wide alert telling students to “get as far away from the buildings as possible.”
The alert mentioned “threats” but did not specify that they were bomb threats and did not inform students of the 15 minutes remaining before the bombs were supposed to detonate.
Studio art freshman Britny Rae Spencer said the vagueness of the University’s text alert was what was most confusing for her.
Spencer said had the text alert specified the situation, noted the standard evacuation distance and been issued sooner, she believes other students would have been more likely to distance themselves the minimum 300 feet, a measure that would have helped to ensure their safety.
“They just didn’t say anything,” Spencer said, referring to the University’s text alert.
Printed on Tuesday, September 18, 2012 as: Evacuation falls short of plans