University buildings on lockdown after bomb threat

Carnegie Mellon received an anonymous bomb threat from an undisclosed party via e-mail last Friday afternoon that made reference to Doherty Hall and the Mellon Institute. Carnegie Mellon University Police with the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police, University of Pittsburgh Police, and Port Authority Police responded to the threat by immediately evacuating both buildings and conducting a thorough investigation.

Among investigators were David Nams of the University of Pittsburgh Police and his black lab, Riggs, who is “highly trained in explosive detection,” a fellow sergeant said.

During this time, campus security personnel escorted evacuees two at a time back into the buildings to retrieve their belongings. The university originally planned to close both buildings until noon on Saturday, but later anticipated only a 30-minute wait before those evacuated would be let back inside. At about 4:15 p.m., the buildings reopened.

The university remained in contact with the campus community via AlertNow, the system recently implemented to contact students (along with faculty and staff) via cell phone with up-to-date information in the event of an emergency. The first update, sent at 3:15 p.m., reported that the bomb threat had been received.

The second update, at about 3:45 p.m., stated that both buildings had been evacuated, were in the process of being investigated, and would re-open in approximately 30 minutes.

The third and final update at 4:15 p.m. announced that both buildings had been checked and cleared and were now open.

Official Communications also sent two e-mails, one at 5:30 p.m. that announced the investigation, and a second at 8 p.m. confirming that the investigation was complete and the buildings had been reopened.

Those students who signed up for AlertNow received the messages; those that didn’t were left in the dark.

“I’m not aware of it, at least,” said Mamar Kumar, a second-year graduate student in chemical engineering, of the AlertNow system.

He stood with second-year Ph.D. student in chemical engineering, Sree Ram, who had also never heard of the system.

They were two of a crowd of about 20, mainly graduate students and faculty, who had been evacuated from Doherty Hall.

The group gathered outside the building’s south entrance while a university security guard secured the doors.

Kumar and Ram said that they were informed of the threat when a staff member came to knock on the doors of their offices and told them to exit the building. The building’s alarm was also sounded to warn occupants of the danger.

University Police and the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police could not be reached for comment.