Students, staff and faculty evacuated the Bellevue College campus on Thursday, May 16. School operations were suspended at approximately 3:00 p.m. in response to threats made to the safety of the school.
“I was trying to get some work done, being productive. Then they told me to get out.” Gunnar Erickson was in the library when he was told to evacuate Bellevue College. He, like many other students and faculty, was not told the exact reason for the evacuation, only to leave campus as quickly and calmly as possible.
BC President Jerry Weber sent a Campus Safety Notification by email to all students and faculty at 1:28 p.m. on the day of the evacuation. The email informed students of a disturbance that occurred on Wednesday in a B building classroom that was quickly resolved by Public Safety. It also informed students of threatening remarks made towards the school and disclosed that the remarks were under investigation. President Weber asked students to remain alert and aware of their surroundings as the investigation was ongoing.
Then, at 3:00 p.m., another email was sent declaring an Immediate Campus Closure. President Weber stated, “We have received a threat against the campus, and the police are not able to locate the person who made the threat.” To protect all students and faculty, President Weber ceased all campus operations, including evening classes, and asked for a calm and orderly departure from campus
Before the email was sent, however, school employees were already moving among the students and asking them to leave. Tension was initially high, as the reasons for departure were not given, but calm leadership from school officials helped to facilitate student departures. Several school employees also stayed behind to ensure that students who could not leave campus would have access to shelter-in-place locations, providing for the safety of students first and foremost.
While the evacuation of students from classrooms went smoothly, leaving the school itself took some time. Lines of cars stretched from the exits deep into the parking lots as the entire campus attempted to leave at once. However, Public Safety and the Bellevue Police Department quickly stepped in to direct traffic exiting the school. Gridlock was prevented and the evacuation proceeded without much friction.
On Thursday, at 4:41 p.m., BPD tweeted: “The suspect in the threat against @BellevueCollege has been arrested.” He was taken in “without incident.” At 5:47 p.m., BPD tweeted: “Update: the suspect in the @BellevueCollege threat injured a Duvall police officer during the arrest and will face additional charges. He is being booked into jail.”
Clear communication and professional staff allowed Bellevue College to respond to a potential threat quickly and efficiently. BC’s dedication to student safety has produced a well-oiled machine capable of performing a smooth evacuation in case of emergencies.
Photograph by Penny Yeh, The Watchdog