For the third time this semester, a bomb threat forced the evacuation of several buildings at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
Students, staff and faculty were evacuated from Holt Hall, the University Center, the Lupton Library, Grote Hall and Brock Hall, after school officials received a bomb threat just before 11 a.m. Tuesday. Emergency crews gave the all-clear at about 1 p.m.
Emergency services personnel had to respond to a bomb threat at UTC in October and another one just last week.
Tuesday's incident disrupted many students taking final semester exams, or prevented some students from getting to campus altogether.
Laurel Kidd, a junior environmental sciences major at UTC, said she and several classmates in her ecology class opted to finish their exams sitting outside.
"It was worth it," she said of taking the exam outside, despite the distractions.
Bomb threats happen at least once a semester, she said, though they have never happened during a test for Kidd.
"It's lame," she said. "It's not understandable. Really you only buy yourself two hours if you're trying to get out of a test. It doesn't seem worth it."
Bomb threats are disruptive and inconvenient for schools and businesses, said Sgt. Al Tallent, head of the Chattanooga Police Department bomb squad and Homeland Security coordinator.
"We treat any bomb threat as if there is a live device, because we do not know what's there," Tallent said. "When one of these goes on, it's nothing we can take care of in five minutes. Our main priority is to protect lives."
Firefighters, emergency personnel, Chattanooga and UTC campus police are called to any location where a threat has been made, and that draws emergency services away from other needs.
"Not only is it disruptive, but you've also got police and firefighters responding to the scene, sometimes with sirens on, and that can increase the risk of an accident," said Bruce Garner, the Chattanooga Fire Department's public information officer.
Though police can prosecute those who call in threats, the best way to stop the problem may be through students, said Chuck Cantrell, associate vice chancellor for communications and marketing.
"We are very aware that students get irritated at this," he said. "The best way to stop this is for the students who know information to turn it in."
Contact staff writer Rachel Bunn at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6592.