By Emily Bell | LSU Student
LSU officials say they are updating the university's emergency text messaging system and emergency management plan to provide for speedy campus-wide evacuations in the case of future emergencies, such as the recent bomb scare and Hurricane Issac.
LSU Police Department spokesperson Corey LaLonde said the evacuation plan LSU PD currently uses in the event of campus-wide bomb threats is similar to the one used for home football games.
"Obviously our largest event that we have on campus is football. And we do have an evacuation plan for football," LaLonde said. "It mostly deals with traffic flow and (not) with issues specific to the stadium. But in an instance like [a bomb threat], that's pretty much what we rely on. We go back to that traffic flow."
There are some variations, he said.
LaLonde and Assistant Vice Chancellor for Communication Kristine Calongne said with campus-wide bomb threats, LSU PD cannot enact contra-flow like they would for a home football game because of the LSU Child Care Center and Lab School on campus.
"We have parents who wanted to get to those children and pick them up. So we have to let people in," Calongne said.
LaLonde also said that a bomb threat is not a planned event like a football game; therefore, police officers are not "pre-staged," or already in place.
Interdisciplinary studies senior Billie Jones said she personally did not see law enforcement directing traffic until "at least an hour after the bomb threat text."
The LSU Emergency Operations Center (EOC) sent a mass text message warning registered faculty and students within its Emergency Notification System at 11:32 a.m. the day of the bomb threat.
The text was sent an hour after William Bouvay Jr. allegedly called the East Baton Rouge Parish 911 Call Center saying three bombs would detonate on LSU's campus in two hours, at approximately 12:32 p.m. No location was cited.
LaLonde said it took approximately 80 minutes from the time the EOC issued the evacuation order at 11:32 for the majority of traffic to move off campus and out of the surrounding areas of campus.
Jones, who sat in her running car at the end of the Hart Parking Lot for 30 minutes before deciding to walk, said, "I would imagine it was probably longer than that."
While LSU Interim President William Jenkins cited the 80 minutes in a follow-up email to students, Associate Vice Chancellor Herb Vincent told The Daily Reveille that "some outlying areas of campus to the north were not clear for approximately two hours."
He said overall, however, 80 to 90 minutes was an accurate portrayal of the time it took to clear campus, based on time-stamped photos.
Jenkins said, "Moving a population of 25,000 to 30,000 people off the campus is no small feat," wrote Jenkins in a postmortem message to faculty, staff and students.
LaLonde said the universitycurrently is considering " having additional resources in addition to police officers," such as traffic personnel, to assist the flow of traffic in the event of future emergencies.
The LSU PD had assistance that day from other law enforcement agencies, Calongne said. LaLonde specifically mentioned state police air support, which monitored traffic via helicopters overhead.
"We are happy with the fact that we were able to move everybody off campus in the time frame we did," says LaLonde. "On top of that, that no one was injured or killed."
Calongne said her office, the Office of Communications & University Relations, is also looking to clarify language in the 140-character emergency text messages.
Vincent acknowledged to The Reveille that the initial text warning, "while clearly effective, was not as specific in its instructions as it could have been." He said it ought to have made clearer the entire campus should be evacuated and have suggested walking rather than driving as an alternative.
Calongne said her office will also consider "sending a couple of follow-up text messages," in the event of a similar warning in the future in order to combat the 140-character limitation of most phones.
"We don't want to wait to tell students about the threat. We want to tell them immediately so they have all the information they need and can make a decision about getting off campus."
LaLonde and Calongne noted the university would reach out to other universities which experienced recent bomb threats, such as the University of Texas and University of North Dakota, to see how the situation was handled on their campuses.
"I'm sure every campus is different and everything they went through was a little bit different, but there are absolutely lessons that we can all learn from each other and ways to do this kind of thing better," Calongne said.
Neither LaLonde nor Calongne can remember the last time LSU had a bomb threat, but LaLonde said past bomb threats "generally give us specific location. That, in itself, makes the response to that completely different."