Public Safety responds to University and Waltham bomb threats
The University is working to improve aspects of its emergency response systems after an emailed bomb threat last month, Director of Public Safety Ed Callahan wrote in an email to the Justice.
“There are a number of things we can and will do better in the future,” Callahan wrote. “But the basics are in place, and the right people are on point.”
In response to the threatening email sent to administrative offices, Brandeis began to evacuate shortly before 10 a.m. on Aug. 23, and campus remained closed for approximately seven hours, according to messages from the Brandeis Emergency Notification System. University staff and students were alerted of the threat through BENS with the text “bomb threat.”
Residential students and staff at the University were relocated across the street and housed in Gosman Gym auditorium until all of main campus was searched by Waltham police and fire personnel for clearance, according to an email from University President Ron Leibowitz on Aug. 23. BENS is among the improvements the University plans to make.
“We are updating the BENS system with additional templated messages that will enable us to use its full capabilities more automatically in an emergency. We will also conduct more training with the staff who are authorized to issue emergency messages,” Callahan wrote.
The University is also working with the Waltham Police Department to develop better evacuation procedures and improve automobile and pedestrian traffic flow in emergency situations, according to Callahan.
“Nothing is more important than the safety of our students, faculty and staff,” Callahan wrote. “Incidents such as this are disruptive and disappointing, but it is important that we use them as opportunities to learn and improve our response, which is exactly what we are doing.”
The Waltham Police Department continues to look into the Aug. 23 bomb threat as part of “a very active investigation of a rash of bomb threats made in the city over the last several months,” Callahan wrote.
On Aug. 30, 24 similar threats were sent to various locations around Waltham, including Waltham Public Schools, according to an Aug. 30 Waltham Patch article. These threats appear to be hoaxes, the Patch reports, but the Waltham Police Department is still investigating.
Prior to Aug. 30, the Patch counted 16 bomb threat hoaxes in Waltham since the beginning of the year. Targets included Waltham public elementary schools, the Waltham Public Library and Brandeis.
Mayor Jeannette McCarthy stated that similar threats have been made to City Hall, city offices and the Waltham Senior Center, according to an Aug. 30 article by the Waltham News Tribune.
—Editor’s note: This article originally appeared online on Aug. 24. It has been updated for publication in the Sept. 5 issue of the Justice.