Police find no explosive devices following two bomb threats

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Police found no explosive devices after two bomb threats caused an evacuation of MTHS earlier this afternoon.

Scheduled events for tonight will go on as planned, and school will take place as planned tomorrow, according to Assistant Principal Peter Schurke.

The attendance office received two calls at 1:26 p.m. saying that a bomb was going to explode at MTHS in six minutes, according to Schurke. He said the MTHS administration team determined the threats should be taken seriously and decided to evacuate the building. He said all students were evacuated within four minutes of the threats being made.

Schurke is calling the bomb threats “a prank.”

Deputy Chief of Police Pete Caw of the Mountlake Terrace Police Department (MLTPD) said police were on-scene five minutes after MTHS administrators called 911, with four MLTPD officers and two Edmonds Police Department officers responding.

“After looking through common areas and other areas with the school administration, no suspicious devices were discovered and we cleared about one hour and 15 minutes later,” Caw said.

He said MLTPD had not yet received any tips or leads about the possible suspects.

Students and staff followed established procedures for evacuations and gathered on the turf field behind the school after MTHS administrators pulled the fire alarm. The students met with their P.A.S.S. classes outside where attendance was taken and then reported.

Senior Nnenna Emelogu said that when the fire alarm rang, she didn’t expect a legitimate concern.

“At first I thought it was fine, it was just some kind of a drill but then as I got outside I realized there was no email sent out [to MTHS staff], so it was probably more urgent. As I got outside I didn’t really panic and then the police started showing up,” Emelogu said.

Announcements were made while students waited to discover what was happening. Students riding buses were directed to walk to Cedar Way Elementary, an estimated 13 minute walk according to Google Maps, where buses were waiting to take students home. Science teacher John Traxler accompanied the students traveling to Cedar Way Elementary.

Students who were driving or walking home were not initially permitted to leave the field and were told to wait for further directions.

After looking through common areas and other areas with the school administration, no suspicious devices were discovered and we cleared about one hour and 15 minutes later.”

— MLTPD Deputy Chief of Police Pete Caw

Students were initially told the building would be closed overnight. However, students and staff were let inside after police gave the all-clear signal. According to Schurke, police gave the all-clear at 2:19 p.m., when students and staff were let inside of the building. School is scheduled without any modifications for tomorrow.

Students were also initially told all after-school activities at MTHS were cancelled, but Schurke later said all activities are able to take place, including the scheduled assembly practice occurring later tonight.

Schurke said that while the response to the threat was successful, there were some “bumps” that administrators will learn from.

Schurke said one of the challenges was communicating with students and staff on the turf field. He said that many students in the back of the field were unable to hear important instructions.

“There are always little things that we need to tweak in a plan. One of the things that became very clear this time out was that people at the back of the field couldn’t hear when I was making announcements on the bullhorn, which means I either need to go closer to the middle of the field or we need to come up with a different way to communicate out to students,” Schurke said.

Edmonds School District Safety and Emergency Preparedness Specialist Layne Erdman said one of the concerns in bomb threat situations is the amount of radio and cell phone communication that occurs. In some cases, radio transmissions have the potential to detonate explosive devices.

“Radio communication and cell phone communications are common ways of [detonating explosives]. We want to make sure that we’re minimizing that, just like all the kids that come out here and get on their phones. Well, it doesn’t take much for one of those to set off a bomb,” Erdman said.

Erdman said law enforcement typically disable their radio communication devices in bomb threat situations. He also said that this event would be used as a learning opportunity for future safety planning.

“We’re going to be doing an after action analysis, so we’ll talk to different people in different places to get a picture of the whole thing,” Erdman said.

Schurke said the administrators and staff will soon review the incident to improve upon the safety and response plan.

“We will have a debriefing with the staff about this after action and make sure we have everybody bring up their ideas so we can look at all of them and try and streamline and make our procedures even better,” he said.

Schurke said that these threats were taken seriously out of concern for the safety of all on campus.

“We’re all clearly thankful that this was just a prank. There was obviously no explosive device. But whenever something like this happens, we don’t think about whether it’s a prank or not. We take it seriously because we cannot afford to guess that it is a prank and turn out to be wrong,” he said.

The Hawkeye will continue to bring you updates as they are made available. Follow @MTHSHawkeye for the breaking news. 

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