June 19, 2018
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Security extensive at UMaine commencement

By Meg Haskell, BDN Staff

ORONO, Maine — Security personnel were a visible presence at the University of Maine commencement exercises on Saturday, and their oversight of the event was broad.

University spokesman Joe Carr said no specific threats had been received and no incidents marred the graduation ceremony.

In a corner of the parking lot near the Alfond Arena, where the commencement ceremonies were held, the Maine State Police mobile incident command and control center was set up along with a separate trailer assigned to the state police bomb squad.

Inside one end of the mobile command center, three dispatchers — two from the state police and one from the university’s public safety department — fielded a steady stream of reports from inside the arena, where 20 public safety staff members were circulating with two-way radios. No serious problems had been reported, the dispatchers said.

At the other end of the center, university staff members with expertise in information technology, facilities management and public safety watched a big-screen monitor broken into 20 smaller images showing an ever-changing view of the inside of the arena. Also on hand was Buddy Webb, fire chief for the town of Orono.

Security personnel also were stationed strategically around the outside of the arena.

Noel March, chief of police and public safety director for the university, said the facility had been checked for bombs and other threats on Friday evening and monitored closely ever since.

“We’ve been set up here all night,” he said. With at least 10,000 people expected to attend the ceremonies, March said, protecting their safety, comfort and well-being was no small task, especially given heightened public awareness after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and school shootings in other parts of the country.

“We’re more aware, and we rely more on our partners and allies such as the Maine State Police,” March said. “This is post-9-11, post-Virginia Tech preparedness.”

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