Bomb Threat Leads to Evacuation
By Grace Smith, Anais Broer and Elizabeth Han, with additional reporting by Bao Nguyen and Stephanie Yun
September 8, 2011
Filed under News
Anonymous call leads to search, long wait on field
All students were evacuated for several hours today after an anonymous adult male left several threatening phone calls.
According to Principal Troy Johnston, three phone calls were made within 15 minutes, around 11:15 a.m. The caller claimed that a bomb would be set off in the administration building this afternoon. Administration felt it was a “credible threat” and took the necessary steps to evacuate the school.
No arrests have been made, according to administrators.
An announcement was made over the intercom by the principal for all staff and students to clear the buildings after a fire alarm was sounded. Teachers led students to the football field, where they would spend the next two hours under a hot noonday sun.
Once students and staff had been safely evacuated, administration and school security proceeded to sweep the buildings to ensure they were empty. Shortly after, fire and police personnel arrived on campus and began to search for the alleged bomb. After an extensive search, the threat was judged to be a hoax and students were allowed to return to the upper campus.
According to Johnston everyone reacted “simultaneously and smoothly.” Once the phone calls were considered threatening, the Oakland School District office was alerted. The district alerted parents with a series of automated “robo-calls” to students’ emergency contact numbers. According to an Oracle staff member’s parent, the first phone call was a warning about the incident.
“This morning, the main office received a series of anonymous calls over a very brief period of time, indicating that a bomb had been placed in the administration building and would be detonated later in the day,” said the call from OUSD public relations representative Troy Flint. “The call was made by an adult male from an outside number. There was nothing to substantiate his claims, but to err on the side of caution, we took it at face value, and immediately initiated emergency response procedures.”
Flint added that police and OUSD’s emergency response department were dispatched to the campus, and police bomb-sniffing dogs performed a search. However, according to Principal Johnston, it was too difficult to actually get bomb-sniffing dogs on campus. “It would have taken too long, and there are so few of them available,” he said.
Throughout the lengthy evacuation period, a few students tried to leave the locked down school by jumping the fence on Skyline Blvd. Some parents, alerted by the automated call, parked outside hoping to pick up their children.
“When I came up here, there were lines of parents waiting to pick up their students,” said Danny Zhen, a Skyline alumni who happened to be visiting the campus this afternoon.
Some students were upset because they had no information of what was going on and were kept in the heat and unable to go to lunch. “I think the Administration should tell us what’s going on,” said senior George Shum.
The school nurse said a student had feinted from the heat.
The entire incident took approximately two hours to be resolved, with Skyline students returning to campus safely, at around 12:45. Lunch was served late, replacing 5th period, and the schedule resumed normally at 6th period.
Principal Johnston felt that his staff and students handled the situation smoothly and responsibly.
Lt. Bhatt of the Oakland Schools Police Department agreed. “Skyline administration did an excellent job in handling the situation,” he said. “Had there been a real event, everyone would have been safe”
The full text of the automated call home:
“Dear Skyline community, this is a message from troy flint, director of public relations for the Oakland Unified School District. I’m calling to inform you about a security related incident, which took place at Skyline today, Thursday, September 8th, and it expected to continue into the early afternoon. This morning, the main office received a series of anonymous calls over a very brief period of time, indicating that a bomb had been placed in the administration building and would be detonated later in the day. The call was made by an adult male from an outside number. There was nothing to substantiate his claims, but to err on the side of caution, we took it at face value, and immediately initiated emergency response procedures. Oakland school police were notified at once, as well as OUSD’s emergency response department. Officers were dispatched to the site and Oakland School police coordinated with OPD to have bomb sniffing dogs perform a search. Evacuation procedures are in progress as I record this message at ten to noon, and we will keep students and staff out of harm’s way until the premises have been thoroughly searched.”