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DCL prepared to respond to bomb threats

By Charlotte Aaron

Section: Features

October 20, 2017

During the August bomb threat, Department of Community Living (DCL) Director Tim Touchette was one of the point people for the team clearing residential buildings and evacuating student. Under directions for Chief of University Police Ed Callahan, “DCL’s main goal was to ensure that all students were appropriately evacuated to the designated area,” wrote Touchette in an email to The Brandeis Hoot.

While the team was able to ensure that all residential areas were cleared, DCL staff did run into students who did not evacuate as asked. “Each student found was referred [to] the office of Student Rights and Responsibilities for additional education about campus and personal safety,” Touchette explained, as every student who fails to evacuate slows the process of evacuation and clearing.

In the event of a bomb threat, the Brandeis webpage for Emergency Preparedness gives a detailed set of steps for both students and faculty to follow. It explains that after calling the emergency number it is extremely important to notify an authoritative figure, such as a Community Advisor (CA). Then, you should take only the most essential personal belongings that can be grabbed without jeopardizing personal safety before evacuating at least 100 feet from the closest building and awaiting further instruction.

Following evacuation, the DCL and Student Affairs team was responsible for ensuring students were fed and comfortable. “This is no easy task, but the two groups did an incredible job of keeping things moving so that students who were evacuated could have the resources needed to have as productive of a day as possible,” wrote Touchette.

In line with recommendations by the Educator’s School Safety Network (ESSN), a Crisis Management Team exists at Brandeis to help in cases of emergencies. One part of this team is the Department of Community Living, which, according to Touchette, regularly trains for a variety of crisis situations.

“From time to time (and with the bomb threats) we are part of a team that is tasked with securing residential spaces,” wrote Touchette in an email to The Hoot. “When students receive information about sheltering in place or evacuating to a specific area, we ask that they treat that request with urgency. The process of securing residential areas is time intensive on its own, and if students ignore warning messages and directions it complicates the process and slows the overall process of clearing/securing residence halls.”

The ESSN is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization that studies and provides training, consulting and resources on school safely. They reported in 2016 that since Nov. 2011, there has been a 1,461 percent increase in bomb threats to schools. In the 2015-2016 academic year, Massachusetts had experience the most threats of any state, accounting for 10.7 percent of all bomb incidents.

According to the study on eschoolsafety.org, 44 percent of all threats are directed at elementary schools and one percent of threats are directed at higher education, putting Brandeis in a small group of colleges and universities who have had to respond to a bomb threat, relative to the 99 percent of threats directed at K-12 schools across the country.

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