An anonymous phone call sent Hamilton College into lockdown for approximately seven hours last Monday in an alarming reminder that NESCAC schools are not immune to potential acts of campus violence.
At 10:45 a.m. Hamilton’s Office of Campus Safety issued an initial alert warning of an “emergency situation” in the Kirner-Johnson building, which houses the college’s social sciences departments, saying “[T]he entire south side of campus shall immediately shelter in place. This is not a drill.” Forty minutes later an update stated that approximately 50 police officers were investigating a possible bomb, shooter or both.
By 11:30 a.m., the entire campus had been informed via an emergency notification system to “move inside. Lock doors if possible, draw curtains, stay away from windows.”
All classes were cancelled as the campus remained in lockdown for the next several hours while bomb technicians from Albany assessed the situation. At one point, emergency responders found a suspicious package in the threatened building, but concluded it was not a threat.
After 15 campus alerts over the course of seven hours, the shelter-in-place order was finally lifted at 5:57 p.m.
Though the warning turned out to be unsubstantiated, officials continue to investigate the caller behind the initial tip.
Director of Safety and Security Randy Nichols declined to comment on the events, explaining that he wasn’t comfortable speculating about a situation he has no inside knowledge of.
In a 2014 Orient article, Nichols discussed Bowdoin’s procedures in case of a similar emergency. He explained that we have a mass notification system in place to inform students, faculty and staff of a potentially dangerous situation via text and e-mail.