By Gabriela Mendez
On Friday, Jan. 22 at 9:49 a.m. an email was sent to all students, faculty and staff at The University of Tampa alerting everyone to take shelter after a bomb threat was sent to them.
Tampa Police Department (TPD) and Campus Safety, after having done a sweep of the campus, found the threat to not have been found. It was discovered that the same threat was sent to other schools across Florida and is now an ongoing investigation.
After Friday’s event many students were left wondering what exactly UT’s protocol is when it comes to such a serious situation as a bomb threat and if UT is equipped to handle such situations.
“It is hard for me to think that UT is capable of handling dangerous situations when, just walking around campus you can see the Campus Safety officers piled up together chatting instead of patrolling and their usually slow response time,” said Adachi Selas, sophomore psychology major.
In situations such as the bomb threat UT received, staff and faculty are meant to follow the university’s Emergency Operation Plan (EOP), which is defined by UT’s website as, “the administration’s procedural guide for responding to potential (or developing emergencies in a timely, appropriate and methodical manner.”
The EOP is updated every year when UT’s emergency operation team – which consists of people who get the safety message out – discuss any updates or changes that need to be made to the EOP.
All staff and faculty at UT have these plans on hand in order to have knowledge of what to do in situations that may hinder the safety of the university.
“The EOP is a timely, appropriate, and methodical protocol so we are not just running around and we actually have a plan for situations like a safety, chemical, or tropical emergency,” said Samuel Ponce, assistant director for Campus Safety.
In UT’s EOP, the protocol for a bomb threat is for the emergency operation team to meet and assess if the need for shelter, transportation, or evacuation is needed. UT also gets in contact with TPD, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, and Hillsborough County to plan for emergencies.
Campus Safety performs a search of the campus with TPD and asserts whether the campus is safe or not of the bomb threat and sends a UT Alert to inform the students, staff and faculty of their findings.
“Whatever the information that is given determines the response that is given,” said Ponce.
UT has also gone to adopting programs such as Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate (ALICE), which is a self-defense training program to aid in the situation of an active shooter on campus.
This training is offered to all of faculty and staff and is a blended theory model of both online and hands on training.
Some students found that UT did not handle the recent bomb threat accordingly and felt there could have been more effort in forcing students to take shelter as what advised on the UT Alert.
“UT did not do enough to handle the bomb threat in my opinion. Only the Vaughn Center was on lock down from the outside and operations on the inside of the building continued as normal. Residential halls were not shut down for even a second, classes continued, students were roaming the campus as usual,” said Selas.
Yet, some students felt that UT did enough in informing students and forcing students to shelter in place, and felt that it was an improvement to how Campus Safety has dealt with past emergencies.
“I don’t know what else could have been done so I believe they handled it to the best of their abilities and I do feel that they did send out the information in a quicker timely manner than they have with past UT Alerts that have informed of events that occurred days or weeks later,” said Natalia Cruz, english and theater double major.