Evacuation smooth after bomb threat

Police evacuated Warner Hall after a bomb threat last Monday. (credit: Jennifer Coloma/Staff) Police evacuated Warner Hall after a bomb threat last Monday. (credit: Jennifer Coloma/Staff)

Police officers and employees in the buildings evacuated during a bomb threat last Monday have different perspectives on how smoothly the sweep went.

University Police received a bomb threat, via different notes found in different locations on campus, at around 8:30 a.m. The threat targeted both Warner Hall and Smith Hall. About an hour later, University Police evacuated the targeted buildings, and the Pittsburgh Bomb Squad began a floor-by-floor search.

“They didn’t say bomb threat. They said, ‘We need you to leave the building,’ and they told us to go over to Cyert,” said Ruth Vojtko, a Warner Hall receptionist. “It wasn’t an alarming, ‘Quick, get out of here’ evacuation.”

Cyert Hall is connected to Warner Hall at the basement level. University Police did not say why they evacuated employees of Warner Hall to Cyert, only that they took matters of campus safety very seriously. However, according to Lettia Denormandie, an enrollment services receptionist, there “was a slight miscommunication” as to how University Police and the Pittsburgh Bomb Squad would conduct the search.

“We thought that we were supposed to wait until they cleared all the other floors before we moved out,” Denormandie said. While some employees in Warner Hall left as soon as they were notified, others remained behind.

University Police has a different perspective. According to Lieutenant Gary Scheimer, the search went very well. He said that this was one of the smoothest searches he has ever been involved with.

“We had cooperation with multiple agencies, and the cooperation with staff and students was amazing. We were able to take care of it in a very short time and get back to business,” Scheimer said.

This bomb scare reminded Warner Hall employees of a past incident in which a waitlisted computer science student sent a package to admissions. One of the workers opened the package and saw a flashing light. “[It was] a little bizarre for us,” Vojtko said. Warner Hall took the incident seriously and evacuated to the University Center until the police arrived.

“That was a quick kind of evacuation,” Vojtko said. She said that the evacuation of Warner Hall, this time, “was a very strange evacuation of a building if there was a bomb scare.”

Warner Hall employees are split as to how well University Police and the Pittsburgh Bomb Squad handled the situation. However, they do agree that the police did a good job of keeping people calm.

“I didn’t see anybody hysterical or anything, so I think in some respect, the police didn’t get us over-alarmed or anything. I think in that respect it was handled okay,” Vojtko said.

“We just want everybody to be observant of their surroundings,” Scheimer said. “And if they see anything suspicious, to report it.”