EL PASO—More than 15,000 students and faculty members were evacuated today from the University of Texas at El Paso as a result of an anonymous bomb threat.
At 1:58 p.m. the UTEP Police Department issued a text message and an e-mail alerting everyone enrolled in the Miner Alert System to evacuate the campus.
UTEP Police Chief Cliff Walsh would not disclose any details about the ongoing investigation, except that it was initiated by a phone call and the proper precautionary steps were taken as a response to the threat.
“The campus is safe. We are going to check the campus out and we will engage in other activities to make sure the campus is safe and we are working with our state, local and federal partners on this as well,” said Walsh during a press conference at Mundy Park, just outside of campus.
Classes were cancelled for the rest of Tuesday, but are scheduled to resume Wednesday morning. UTEP campus usually counts with added security during the day and no extra precaution will be implemented tomorrow, according to Walsh.
This is the first time the Miner Alert system is used to alert a complete evacuation of the campus and student dormitories. Walsh said something like this is very uncommon at UTEP but is pleased with the calm and orderly manner in which the evacuation was executed.
Sophmore Grace Chavarria was one of the students who received the alert and said she had no idea what to do after receiving the message.
“At first I was thinking is it just a false alarm or just a drill, but as we were walking towards Hawthorn (building) we saw everybody starting to walk off campus and the shuttles were full of people, so we were like. Oh my gosh!” Chavarria said.
Chavarria and her roommate Stephanie Shaw live on campus and were left wandering the surrounding streets waiting for another message to let them know it is safe to go back to their dormitory. Chavarria and Shaw said they have performed fire drills at UTEP before, but nothing like this had ever happened to them.
Thousands of vehicles lined the streets and the phone lines were jammed for at least an hour after the alert was issued. Although some students and teachers did not receive the alert, Walsh said the system is effective and there is information available for students and faculty to test their Miner Alert connectivity.
To test your Miner Alert connectivity you can visit mineralert.utep.edu.