With the increased anxiety over the war in the Middle East, many Utahns are experiencing additional uneasiness in the form of bomb threats.
Five Utah colleges and universities and other businesses received bomb threats during the last two days. Utah State University even closed its entire campus Thursday after receiving one threat.But officials believe the threats being received are from pranksters taking advantage of the rise in concern over terrorism since the war began.
- Friday, about 250 people at Weber State University in Ogden were evacuated from the electrical engineering and mathematics building after the university received a threatening call just after 11 a.m. Spokesman Craig Nelson said a search by police turned up no evidence of a bomb, permitting students and faculty to resume their normal activities after about an hour.
- Salt Lake police received a 911 call Friday afternoon from a man at the the Family Practice Clinic who said he heard another man mention that he had planted bombs at the University of Utah. Salt Lake and U. police investigated but found nothing.
"There just appeared to be nothing to it," said U. Police Chief Wayne Shepherd.
- A Salt Lake pizza restaurant also received a bomb threat Friday from a man with what an employee described as an Arab accent, said Salt Lake Police Sgt. Scott Atkinson. Police responded, but nothing out of the ordinary was found.
"It appears to be pranksters taking advantage of the situation." said Lt. Ken Thirsk. "They know that people will take them a little more seriously now (since the war began) than before," added Atkinson.
- Security officers at the Utah State Capitol reported that a man called Friday morning and said there was a bomb planned to go off in the building. Officers said the threat was not taken seriously because of the nature of the call. Legislative sessions were not interrupted, but lawmakers could be heard talking about it throughout the day.
- Westminster College in Salt Lake City received a phone call about 3:30 p.m. Thursday from a man who said a bomb would go off at different buildings on campus for the next three days. Police and security officers investigated, but the buildings were not evacuated and classes were not canceled, said public relations director Dana Tumpowsky.
Campus security officers at Westminster were keeping a closer-than-usual watch on buildings. "We're not running around panicked," Tumpowsky said. "But we're treating it as a threat."
- USU officials said someone telephoned an operator in the administrative offices to say bombs were set to detonate at 1, 2 and 3 p.m. Thursday. After meeting with his advisers, USU President Stanford Cazier decided to evacuate all buildings on campus, including dormitories. Classes were canceled for the rest of Thursday, but resumed on Friday.
- At Brigham Young University, two calls were received about 11 a.m., one at the ROTC building and one at the International Student Office. The caller, in essence, said, "Why do you bomb our country?" and said bombs were set to explode at two locations in the early afternoon. BYU police searched the areas but found nothing, said spokesman Paul Richards.
Officials at Southern Utah University, Dixie College, Salt Lake Community College and Utah Valley Community College said they had not received bomb threats recently. Some reported, however, that rumors about such threats had been floating around campus.
At UVCC, bomb threat checklists were recently given to administrators and those who answer phones. The lists are commonplace for many businesses and include a number of questions to ask threatening callers and a list of characteristics and clues to look for to assist police.
As they always have, legislators also have such checklists near their phones at the Capitol.