Last year, the University of South Dakota had two bomb scares — one in the Arts & Sciences building when a bomb threat was written on a bathroom stall and another in Coyote Village when unidentified material was found in a jar — that called for building evacuation.
Within the last month, North Dakota State University and the University of Texas received bomb threats that spurred campus-wide evacuations in both incidences. Although USD has not received a bomb threat since last year, students and faculty may want to understand what to do in case of an explosive emergency.
USD implements the Everbridge Notification System to communicate with the campus regarding emergency situations. Everbridge notifies students and faculty through emails, phone calls or text messages.
After registering into the system, each student or faculty member is advised to indicate their preferences on how they would like to be informed of emergency situations.
In addition to Everbridge, USD has an Emergency Operating System, or EOC, that is activated during situations like bomb threats, shootings or fires.
“This plan is not just for emergency evacuations or bomb threats,” said Pete Jensen, director of the University Police Department. “This plan could be for water outages, fires or other cases as well.”
Once an emergency situation presents itself, members of the EOC meet in an undisclosed location to manage the case.
Members of the EOC include President James Abbott, Diane Zak, director of human resources, and Kimberly Grieve, the dean of students.
Each emergency situation comes with varying degrees of severity, and consequently, various means of handling the situation, Jensen said.
“There’s not one size fits all for these types of situations,” Jensen said. “Every case is unique.”
Although each situation is handled uniquely, Jensen believes the systems used at USD are malleable enough to apply to each individual case.
“Our plan has enough flexibility that you can adapt it to any situation,” Jensen said.
Emergency guidelines and other information can be found on each student’s individual MyUPortal.
After logging into the portal, there is a tab at the top of the page labeled “Health and Safety.” After being relocated to this page, the viewer will find information on emergency procedures.
This page contains links to emergency guidelines correlating to various emergency situations. These situations include the case of an active shooter, a bomb threat, a fire, tornado or in the case of hazardous materials.
First-year student Alexis Olson was not aware that emergency procedures are listed on the MyUPortal that each student has access to.
“I didn’t know that there was so much information on the portal about what to do in case of an emergency,” Olson said. “This information could be really helpful for students. I don’t think students are well-informed enough about emergency procedures, or even where the information is at.”
In addition to emergency guidelines, the page contains an informational video about the presence of an active shooter on campus, as well as other pertinent information regarding dangerous situations.
When it comes to feeling safe on campus, Jensen said he hopes most students feel well protected.
“I know that the university does everything they can to create a safe environment for the students,” Jensen said. “It’s the No. 1 priority.”
First-year student Alexander Levi feels safe at USD since arriving in late August.
“I feel like I can walk around campus late at night and not feel too worried or scared,” he said.
Although NDSU and Texas both experienced campus-wide evacuations, Jensen said this has never occurred at USD.
“To my knowledge, we have never had to evacuate the entire campus,” Jensen said.
However, USD is familiar with bomb threat situations.
“For a period of time, there were a lot of bomb threats at USD. I think this period of time was before the events of 9/11,” said Barbara Yutrzenka, professor of psychology.
During this time, bomb threats were occurring during classes and exams. Consequently, teachers could volunteer to be trained in how to handle these situations effectively.
Currently, Yutrzenka is not aware of any other faculty training pertaining to emergency situations.
“I’m not sure about all faculty, but in the psychology department, we’ve been trained just because we have a disaster and mental health element to our department,” Yutrzenka said.