Blair evacuated following bomb threats

March 22, 2002, midnight | By Ben Meiselman Joe Howley | 18 years, 10 months ago

Police search the building, find nothing

Two bomb threats called in to a local police station on Friday prompted Blair adminstrators to evacuate the building.

The calls, which threatened a "serious incident" at 1:53 and "around 2:00," according to on-site Emergency Team Coordinator Mark Curran, were made to the Montgomery County Police Department.

At 11:40, police responded at Blair to a phone call from "a male voice saying that he had placed explosives in the building," according to Montgomery County Police Officer Derek Baliles.

Another call came in soon after. Said Baliles, "A second call was received at a little after twelve noon, again saying that explosive devices would go off."

Police decided that the threats were "serious enough that [the police] have to scan the building," said Curran. Blair's Administration then made the decision to evacuate the building.

After several hours of searching, police found no sign of explosives.

User Support Specialist Anne Wizniewski said that the calls were apparently made by people who "knew the inside of the school."

At 12:45, a Code Blue emergency status was declared in the building. At 12:53, the third floor was ordered to evacuate. The announcement instructed students to stop at their lockers because they would not be returning to the building. The other floors were evacuated similarly soon after.

Baliles said police began inspecting the building "about 1:50 or so" for the threatened explosives. Several police cars and K-9 trucks had arrived. "We did have dogs respond," said Baliles

After evacuating, students spent about an hour in the cold stadium. Administrators and faculty refused any sort of comment on the situation, though "bomb threat" was one rumored cause of the evacuation.

At 3:00, when the Magnet buses arrived for students who normally have an 8th period, administrators and Principal Phillip Gainous were still refusing to comment on the situation.

Students and staff were released from the stadium to their buses or cars around 2:10. The Colesville Road parking lot was closed, and cars arriving to pick up students were sent to the University Boulevard lot.

Since students were not allowed to re-enter the building, spare school buses were called to provide a place for students to keep warm from the biting cold. Montgomery County Public Schools Director of Transportation Stephen Raucher arrived to coordinate the arrival of school buses and their direction away from the 20-foot safety perimeter police established around the building.

Almost six hours after the emergency was first declared, police ended their search without having found anything. "The call was cleared at 6:17," said Baliles. "They were unsuccessful in locating a device."

Baliles said that in situations such as this, the decision to evacuate is made not by the police but by the school. "[Evacuation] is based on how the threat is perceived by the adminstration," said Baliles.

The Spring Fling, scheduled for Friday night, was cancelled and will be rescheduled after Spring Break.

According to Baliles, the false report of an explosive device is a felony. The maximum penalty for an adult is a fine of $10,000 and ten years in prison; for a minor, it is usually less than that.

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Ben Meiselman. Ben Meiselman is a senior in the Communication Arts Program at Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring, Maryland. He enjoys playing sports, especially baseball. Ben is seventeen years old, born May 16, 1985. He has played the trumpet since fourth grade when he began … More »

Joe Howley. Joe Howley is a senior at Blair in the Communication Arts Program. He is Editor-in-Chief of the Online division of Chips and shares the Graphics Editorship with the infamous Brandon Proia. He is resigned to being a hopeless computer "geek," and is already an object … More »

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