UTSA staying prepared for UT Austin-style bomb threat

Due to recent bomb threats made to several universities within the state of Texas including the University of Texas at Austin, Texas State and Texas A&M, there has been a refocus on collegiate emergency response procedures.

UT Austin received a phone call early on Sep. 14 suggesting that there was a bomb on campus, triggering a massive evacuation. The campus reopened later that day and student activities for the evening were uninterrupted.

Shortly after, on Thursday Oct. 18, Texas State received an email from Brittany Henderson, a former student, threatening to “blow Texas State up to small little pieces.” Henderson was also connected to a bomb threat the next day at Texas A&M, where students were evacuated but no threat was found on the College Station campus. Henderson was arrested the following Tuesday.

The UTSA Office of Business Continuity & Emergency Management (BCEM), in cooperation with the UTSA Campus Police Department, is “committed to openly engaging the university community to prepare, respond, and recover from local emergencies through an all-hazards approach,” and maintains emergency evacuation procedures for situations ranging from natural disasters to security threats, according to the BCEM website.

There are multiple systems that “the university utilizes to be able to keep people updated on emergencies,” said Lorenzo Sanchez, Director of BCEM. UTSA operates two systems to keep the campus informed. The first is an emergency notification system that students, faculty and staff can register with to receive a voicemail, email, text message or a combination of these to stay informed during emergency situations. The second, the “Giant Voice Mass Notification System,” is a network of indoor and outdoor fire alarm panels as well as five outdoor siren towers that will sound during an emergency.

Although several buildings on campus are considerably older than others, Director Sanchez reassures that “all evacuation routes fall under National Fire Protection Association codes, federally regulated mandates that state there has to be so much space to evacuate from a building.” Thus, some of the older buildings have been renovated to accommodate a growing university population.

“We do the best that we can with the available resources to make sure that we have a secure and safe environment for people to go to school, to work, and to come visit and take preparedness very seriously on multiple levels,” said Sanchez.

UTSA has been fortunate in the sense that there have not been any major incidents. Captain Sonego mentioned that there have been a couple of fires and instances of hazardous material, but mostly false alarms that “a lot of students, faculty and staff have prepared just from practicing” the evacuations. Should there ever be an emergency situation, however, Captain Sonego said that contacting the police is always the safest option.

To become better informed, there are flip guides that can be found in every classroom, meeting space, and hallway that display different procedures for different types of emergencies. For more information about these procedures, visit:  www.alerts.utsa.edu