June 23, 2018
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Southern Maine Community College reopens after bomb threat causes morning evacuations

By Whit Richardson, BDN Staff

SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine — All Southern Maine Community College campuses were evacuated Monday morning after a caller warned of three bombs on the South Portland campus

The campuses were reopened at 1:30 p.m after no explosives were found, according to Lt. Robb Couture, public information officer for the South Portland Fire Department.

Campus security at SMCC’s South Portland campus received a call at 8:42 a.m. Monday saying three bombs had been planted at that campus, Couture said.

The unidentified caller, whose voice was disguised, reportedly did not give locations of the bombs. Campus security was unable to trace the call, Couture said.

“Security took that as a threat to the campus. They immediately started to evacuate the campus. That evacuation is currently almost complete, and as a precaution they evacuated their other campuses as well,” Couture said.

SMCC’s other campuses are in Bath and Brunswick. All classes at the campuses were canceled until 4 p.m.

“There is no active emergency at the campus right now. It’s an active evacuation,” Couture said.

Asked to elaborate, Couture said, “Nothing has happened. There’s been no detonation of a bomb; there’s been no activity that would cause an emergency. It’s a precaution to evacuate the college.”

Police are searching the buildings with bomb-sniffing dogs, Couture said.

By 12:30 p.m., the two dorms on campus were declared safe, and students who live on campus were able to go back to their rooms.

Students had been evacuated to the gym, where they waited for several hours until the dorms were cleared.

Krista Cote, a SMCC student from Rumford who expects to graduate in the spring, and her friend Kaleigh Colson, a student from Portland, both live in the dorms. They said a campus security officer knocked on their doors and told them there was a bomb threat and they needed to evacuate.

“That’s not how I expected my morning to start,” Colson said after spending two hours in the gym.

The bomb threat did trigger the use of the college’s emergency notification system, called CityWatch, which sent emails to all 7,500 students at the college’s three campuses, as well as notifications via social media outlets, said Matt Wickenheiser, the college’s director of communications. CityWatch also notified students who had signed up to receive text message alerts, he said.

Wickenheiser said 5,600 students take at least one class at SMCC’s South Portland campus, while 430 students live on the campus in dorms.

Neither Cote or Colson received text messages on their phones. Cote said she received an email, but only saw it after she had been evacuated from the dorm. Colson didn’t know yet if she had received an email.

Asked if the bomb threat had worried them, Cote and Colson were nonchalant.

“It doesn’t worry me because they always say it happens in middle school and high school. It’s always just a bomb scare,” Cote said, adding that if she had been seriously worried she wouldn’t have left her fish in her dorm room. “It’s just happened so many times it’s like the boy who cried wolf.”

In the course of four years, Colson’s high school had two bomb scares, she said.

“If I was really worried, a lot of stuff would have been brought out of the dorm with me,” including her laptop and clothing, Colson added.

Dylan Bresnick, a SMCC student from Vermont, had left campus in the morning for an appointment. When he returned around 10:30 a.m., he noticed a large amount of traffic flowing off the campus.

“It was ridiculous. I had no clue what was going on. But then I heard there was a bomb threat,” he said.

Asked if the threat of a bomb worried him, Bresnick, who’s in his first semester at SMCC, said, “It’s scary. You have to be aware about it. But it’s kind of a bummer because I’m starving.”

The cafeteria, along with all other campus facilities, remained closed early Monday afternoon.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly spelled Lt. Robb Couture's name.

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